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BWA Leaders Pledge to Tackle Climate Change, Address Zimbabwe

Baptist World Alliance leaders repeatedly addressed the issue of climate change last week at their annual gathering in Prague, Czech Republic, even extending deliberations in the final session to strengthen a resolution on the issue.

The amended resolution added a paragraph which called on BWA leaders to support strongly “government, corporate and community initiatives to address the causes of human-induced climate change, including but not limited to: (a.) greater use of renewal energy technologies; (b.) caps on ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions; (c.) carbon trading; (d.) greater use of green architecture, town planning and transports; (e.) encouragement to conserve, reuse and recycle goods.”

The resolution urged global Baptists to affirm the biblical teaching that God has entrusted creation to the caretaking of human beings and to confess that human beings “have often denied and ignored our interdependence with creation and abrogated our stewardship of creation.”

It called upon Baptists to practice stewardship and take educational initiatives, as well as urged BWA commissions and workshops to study the issues with the goals of bringing future recommendations to address climate change.

After the resolution’s committee requested a brief recess and returned with an amendment to their document, Ross Clifford, chair of the ethics commission, said his commission had requested the specifically amended points for action.

“We live with a generation that wants the Baptist World Alliance to be prophetic on the areas of global warming and climate change,” said Clifford, principle of Morling College, an Australian Baptist college. “I want to encourage us today to be such a prophetic voice.”

Calling attention to his recent editorial on environmental stewardship in Baptist World, David Coffey, BWA’s president, said: “I fully support the sentiments that are here. We may debate some of them. But it does give us teeth. It means that as an organization we can go away now and say this is something substantial to contribute to the debate.”

Two-days earlier in a session of the Christian Ethics Commission, Bill Tillman, ethics professor at Logsdon School of Theology at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, said in a paper distributed to commission members, “The environmental crisis is obvious to me.”

Under the title “Ecosystems, Niches, and Other Matters Ignored by Baptists,” Tillman noted about global warming that “innumerable Baptists, some able to give a rationale and most only provide some emotive perspective, who ‘don’t buy it’ with regard to the environmental issues which face us.”

Tillman referenced some Baptists who have been addressing environmental concerns. He praised a policy statement of the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. released in 1970, and a project jointly sponsored by BMS World Mission, the Baptist Union of Scotland, the Baptist Union of Wales and Rocha, an international Christian conservation organization.

“Unfortunately, as helpfully motivating as these statements may be in consciousness-raising, there is still a general abstractness about all of them. There is a need for concretizing and specificity toward networking and synergy by Baptists,” said Tillman, a long-time ethics leader in the United States.

Warning about the danger of “issuism,” focusing on issues rather than having a bigger picture of the interdependence of life, Tillman said: “We Baptists may even recognize niches, pockets of need, injustice, vulnerability issues, but too much history reveals we address those only as a crisis dimension comes in and only as the particular matter affects us. A major deficiency of seeing the world as a piece-meal collection is that a crisis may be of such dimensions that too much time has passed for anything constructively to be done. Thus, we need some kind of alert system to catch crises in pre-crises stages.”

He said, “Baptists have been at their best as they have addressed social systems and moved whole infrastructures toward the common good.”

Other adopted resolutions included one on Zimbabwe, in which the BWA general council lamented the events there which “have led to economic crisis, social unrest, political uncertainty, and a deterioration in human rights.”

The resolution called on political and military leaders to “respect the democratic process” and “the wise counsel of fellow African leaders.” It urged Baptists to pray and work for peace in Zimbabwe.

A resolution on refugees and immigration called on BWA’s member bodies to “instill an ethic of love that supersedes ethnic, gender and political boundaries” and to “act as advocates for refugees and migrants in solidarity with them.”

Global Baptists also expressed in a resolution their concern about the Italian government’s involuntary fingerprinting of the Roma people. The statement recognized that historically the targeting of minority groups has led to acts of violence and recalled that “the Roma people were targeted and persecuted many times in history leading to the genocide perpetrated against them by the Nazi regime.”

After passing resolutions, the BWA adjourned its week-long meeting with many leaders of member bodies going to the 15th Baptist World Youth Conference, scheduled July 30-Aug. 3 in Leipzig, Germany.

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics and attended the BWA meeting in Prague.

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