Messengers at the 2008 annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention adopted a resolution on “environmental stewardship.” However, the resolution barely promoted environmental stewardship but instead mainly attacked those who warn of the dangers of global warming.
The resolution presented by the Committee on Resolutions to the 174th annual session of the MBC was based on a resolution submitted by an outspoken critic of global warming science whose arguments have been based on questionable sources. Messengers approved the resolution during the Oct. 29 session in St. Louis.
The resolution contends that “some advocates of ‘global warming and climate change’ also promote a political agenda of public education and public policy which will in turn greatly effect [sic] our educational institutions, and our economic well being as a nation and society including our churches and our mission work.”
The resolution states that “31,000 American Scientists have signed on the ‘Petition Project’ which is a Global Warming Petition.” A quotation from the anti-global warming document claims that “[t]here is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.” The resolution also quotes the petition’s claim that there could actually be “beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth” as a result of “increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide.”
The petition quoted in the resolution has been questioned for including fake and duplicate names and individuals with no expertise related to the topic. An investigation by Scientific American also found individuals listed who either said they would not sign the petition today or did not recall signing it. The petition’s Web site notes that while 31,000 individuals have signed the document, only 9,000 have a Ph.D. and many have degrees in medicine, engineering, aerospace or other fields only loosely connected to climatology.
The MBC’s resolution points to the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention resolution “urging Southern Baptists to proceed cautiously in the human-induced global warming debate in light of conflicting scientific research.”
The resolution also quotes 1 Timothy 6:20-21, in which Paul warns Timothy to “guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding irreverent empty speech and contradictions from the ‘knowledge’ that falsely bears that name. By professing it, some people have deviated from the faith.”
The resolution thus calls on “leaders, institutions, and churches to guard against the promotion of disputed science and to walk circumspectly with regard to any potential political agendas that can undermine our creditably [sic] and distract our people, energy, and resources from the great commission, great commandment, and great confession.”
The resolution, which stands in contrast to this year’s “A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change,” includes the claim that “we express our love for our brothers who have signed” that document and “other similar statements with good intentions.” MBC President Gerald Davison, who presided over the annual meeting, was a signer of the declaration.
Released in March, the declaration offered acknowledgment that human-induced climate change might occur. It was seen, however, as “a faint-hearted statement,” especially when compared with documents like the Evangelical Climate Initiative.
Only the final “resolved” section of the MBC resolution offers any support or consideration for promoting environmental stewardship.
“We continually reaffirm our God-given stewardship to care for the earth by remaining environmentally conscious and taking individual and collective efforts to reduce pollution, decrease waste, and improve the environment in tangible, sound, and effective ways,” it concludes.
According to the MBC’s Wednesday Business Update, the resolution was based on one submitted by Gary Urich, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Bolivar, Mo., that was entitled “Global Warming, Climate Change, and Missouri Baptists.” The focus of the original drafter might explain why so little of the resolution on “Environmental Stewardship” actually promotes or even addresses that topic.
Urich, secretary of the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference, recently wrote a column in the Bolivar Herald-Free Press attacking those who warn of the dangers of human-induced global warming. In the column, which was also posted on his church’s Web site, Urich relied on the work of organizations and individuals whose credibility has been questioned.
Urich first cited a study by geography professor Robert Balling Jr., who has received hundreds of thousands of funding dollars from coal and oil companies.
Urich then cited work by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, which is a small private organization that also promotes home-schooling and sells guides to surviving nuclear war. The group’s founder, Arthur Robinson, is a biochemist and not a climatologist. The organization started the questionable petition quoted in the MBC’s resolution.
The next individual Urich cited in his column, the late Frederick Seitz, helped promote the petition quoted in the resolution. Seitz headed the George C. Marshall Institute, which received funding from ExxonMobil. Earlier in his career Seitz received research funding from tobacco company R.J. Reynolds.
Although Seitz is a former president of the National Academy of Sciences, the NAS issued a statement disassociating itself from Seitz and the Oregon Petition. The statement declared, “The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy.”
The final individual cited in Urich’s piece is John Coleman, who founded The Weather Channel. Coleman, a local weatherman, was forced out of management at The Weather Channel in 1983 only one year after the creation of the channel.
Urich also dismissed findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore.
In strong contrast to the claims offered in the MBC’s resolution, Gore argued in an address at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant earlier this year that there is clear evidence of global warming and that there is a biblical mandate for Christians to act as good stewards by reducing human-induced global warming.
The evidence is there,” Gore said. “The signal is on the mountain. The trumpet has blown. The scientists are screaming from the rooftops. The ice is melting. The land is parched. The seas are rising. The storms are getting stronger. Why do we not judge what is right?”
“This is not a political issue,” he added. “It is a moral issue. It is an ethical issue. It is a spiritual issue.”
Gore also addressed the claims of those who, like Urich and the MBC resolution, deny global warming.
“Too many spokespersons–who don’t really speak for me but who claim to–have said global warming’s not real, this is just a myth and etcetera,” Gore stated. “When did people of faith get so locked into an ideological coalition that they’ve got to go along with the wealthiest and most powerful–who don’t want to see change of a kind that’s aimed at helping the people and protecting God’s green earth?”
Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, introduced Gore at the event with a plaque honoring him as the 2007 Baptist of the Year and with a green-covered Bible. Earlier this year, the BCE launched TheGreenBible.org, which is a warehouse of information on the biblical mandate to care for the environment ”and what people of faith can and should do.
Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor to EthicsDaily.com and the editorial assistant for the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.
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Brian Kaylor is editor and president of Word&Way, associate director of Churchnet, and a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com.