Before the United Nation’s climate change talks started on Dec. 7 in Copenhagen, Denmark, evangelical Christians had confessed five months earlier in Kenya their sin for failing to care for God’s environment.
“We confess that we have sinned. We have not cared for the earth with the self-sacrificing and nurturing love of God,” said a statement adopted in July by the Micah Network.
“Instead, we have exploited, consumed and abused it [the earth] for our own advantage. We have too often yielded to the idolatry that is greed. We have embraced false dichotomies of theology and practice, splitting apart the spiritual and material, eternal and temporal, heavenly and earthly. In all these things, we have not acted justly towards each other or towards creation, and we have not honored God,” read the statement.
The Network is a global group of several hundred Christian relief, development and justice organizations from 81 countries, founded in 1999.
Representatives from 38 countries and five continents met this summer in east Africa in a consultation on creation stewardship and climate change.
Initially named the Micah Challenge, Australian and British Baptists spearheaded the organization’s early leadership. The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) passed a resolution in 2004 endorsing the movement’s goal to halve global poverty by 2015.
In the Network’s statement, leaders acknowledged that Christians had “not always been faithful stewards” of the environment.
“Through our ignorance, neglect, arrogance and greed, we have harmed the earth and broken creation’s relationships. Our failure to be faithful stewards has caused the current environmental crisis, leading to climate change, and putting the earth’s ecosystems at risk. All creation has been subjected to futility and decay because of our disobedience,” read the declaration.
The Network also issued a statement to the world leaders, who would be meeting in Copenhagen.
“[W]e call on world leaders from all countries to take decisive action to secure an ambitious and fair climate deal in Copenhagen this year,” said their statement.
It noted that climate change affected everyone, but underscored that the “hardest impact” was on the “most vulnerable communities…who have done the least to cause” global warming.
Climate change “is already responsible for 300,000 deaths a year and affects 300 million people, mainly in the developing world,” read the statement.
In an email to EthicsDaily.com, Les Fussell, national director of Baptist World Aid-Australia, said the Network’s statement “affirmed a renewed commitment by evangelical Christians working in the aid and development sector to fulfilling the biblical mandate to care for the creation and a deepening of their understanding of the place creation has in God’s holistic redemptive plan for His world.”
Fussell, who attended the Network consultation, lamented that evangelical Christians, including Baptists, “have stood on the sideline of the status quo, participating often in the corporate greed that has fueled the drivers of climate change.”
The Australian Baptist leader shared that he and his wife, Robyn, walk their talk about the environment. He said that they have planted more than 30 fruit trees around their home and have an energy efficient hybrid Prius as a family car.
“It is time we, Baptists, considered the whole biblical story, not limiting our self to the saving of souls (which we are called to do), but broadening our understanding of God’s mission in His world to the redemption of the whole of creation,” said Fussell.
Fussell also provided leadership at the annual meeting of the BWA in a briefing on climate change sponsored by the Christian Ethics Commission at which general secretaries for Baptist unions in Nepal and Bangladesh spoke of the adverse affects of global warming on their countries.
Meeting in Ede, Netherlands, the BWA’s general council passed a resolution confessing that “many Baptists have not taken seriously the global environmental crisis resulting from ignorance, neglect, arrogance and greed.”
The resolution noted that the Copenhagen meeting was “a landmark event” and urged national governments to take actions that will strengthen the anticipated climate change treaty.
Global Baptists have offered sound theological reflection about earth care and a clarion call for action to protect the poor.
Would that Baptists in the United States had the spiritual capacity to think theologically about the larger world and act justly for the poor. Alas, we seem turned in upon ourselves, doubtful about scientific consensus, fearful of economic justice and hopeful only in our own happiness at Christmas.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.