Today [March 10, 2008], 44 Southern Baptist leaders broke from their conservative denomination’s official stance on climate change when they released a declaration calling for greater action on global warming—from individual lifestyle changes to responsible public policy. The Rev. James Merritt, one of two past presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention who signed the declaration, compared environmental destruction to “ripping pages from the Bible.”
“We believe our current denominational engagement with these issues has often been too timid, failing to produce a unified moral voice,” the Southern Baptist leaders wrote in their declaration. “Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed.”
This move by the Southern Baptists is only the latest of a growing trend among religious leaders of all faiths to view environmental stewardship as a moral imperative and a God-given responsibility.
The new declaration by the Southern Baptists follows by less than three months the midnight Christmas Mass delivered by Pope Benedict XVI, who bemoaned an “ill-treated world” and called on Catholics and nations worldwide to take better care of the earth. Pope Benedict has spoken out increasingly about environmental issues and has purchased carbon credits to offset the Vatican’s carbon dioxide emissions.
In the homily he gave to thousands of pilgrims in Rome, the pope said: “We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion.”