Unpublicized is a jewel of an opportunity for Baptists concerned about the environment. If you want to know more about global warming and what you can do, then attend one of two special screenings of “An Inconvenient Truth” during the New Baptist Covenant gathering next week in Atlanta and interface with two Baptist ministers who have shown the documentary in their churches.
Two screenings of this award-winning documentary will be shown in the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta on Thursday, Jan. 31, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., and 2-4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1, in room B315.
As the screening facilitator, I have enlisted two ministers who will share from their experiences about showing “An Inconvenient Truth” in their churches.
My two colleagues are Joe Phelps, pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and Matt Rich, minister for adult spiritual formation at Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta.
They may be the only two Baptist ministers with the cutting-edge discernment and the moral moxie to offer this documentary in Baptist churches. At least, they are the only ones that I could find.
I e-mailed leaders of three national Baptist organizations and five state Baptist fellowships, asking if they knew of churches that had either shown “An Inconvenient Truth” or were active on environmental issues. The answer was basically goose eggs: Baptist churches apparently aren’t doing much.
When my e-mail was forwarded to a pastor known for environmental concerns, he e-mailed me that his congregation was too influenced by Russ Limbaugh and detested Al Gore. Another respondent implied that folk in his state apparently saw global warming as a Democratic issue.
The fact that environmental ethics doesn’t appear to be on the centrist-to-progressive Baptist church table raises questions about the depth of support for the much ballyhooed evangelical statement two years about addressing global warming. Once again, it looks like a case of what Texans call “all hat and no cattle.” Big claims lack congregational concern.
That’s why the Al Gore’s luncheon presentation and the screenings of his documentary are such urgent events. We must get the environment on the Baptist agenda in a meaningful, substantive way.
In January 2007 editorial, I asked, “Will Baptists Step Up to Take on Global Warming as Moral Issue in 2007?”
I think I’ve heard an answer. Baptists did not step up to take on global warming.
That failure is a moral failure on the part of Baptist clergy and churches.
The biblical witness is clear. The Bible is God’s green book, giving us the moral responsibility to guard the garden. Yet either we gloss over these passages or we spiritualize them. Maybe we have cut them out of our Bibles. The end result is unfaithfulness to the biblical witness.
Claiming inaction based on the argument that the science is unsettled is simply moral excuse-making, not to mention intellectually dishonest. For the scientific community has reached a consensus: Planet Earth is warming, and we’re the ones turning up the heat.
If you haven’t seen “An Inconvenient Truth,” I hope you will attend one of these documentary screenings. If you have seen it and are looking for a pro-environment Baptist community, then join us.
In his Nobel lecture, Al Gore referenced an African proverb that says: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Then he said, “We need to go far, quickly.”
Indeed, we, Baptists, need to go together to go far and to go quickly.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.