Evangelicals are seen as key in climate debate

March 13, 2010

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Evangelicals are seen as key in climate debate

Panel touts nexus between spirituality and environmentalism

By Gary Soulsman
The News Journal

Young people in evangelical churches have likely never heard a sermon linking scripture with a love of creation and caring for the earth.

That explains the slowness of mainline evangelicals in signing onto the movement to lower carbon emissions and avert climate change, said the Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

He's reached that opinion from hundreds of talks he's given on campuses, and it's sad news for Americans who believe churches could influence leaders in Congress to address climate change, he said recently in Newark.

Influencing evangelicals is key to swaying Republicans, as they rely on evangelicals for votes, said Cizik, a national leader who has not always been in tune with conservative evangelicals on this issue or the acceptance of gays in civil unions.

In 2008, he stepped down from the lobbying position he held for years as vice president of governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals.

On Wednesday night, Cizik was one of three panelists who talked about spirituality and the environment during the final session in a winter series at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark on "Green Matters in the Delaware Region."

Cizik urged more boldness among grassroots environmentalists in engaging with politicians and people of faith. Give up the old credo of "Take, Make, Waste" and replace it with "Borrow, Use, Replenish," he said.

In his view, religion is a powerful motivator of people to speak on issues , and he feels faith has a greater role to play in engaging people around the world on all sorts of matters.

He said people who deny climate change can be gently challenged and with time may be won over, given that a growing number of evangelical leaders are aligning with the climate change cause and signing on with These pastors will bring parishioners on board, he said.

Other speakers also addressed the theme of spirituality and caring for the earth. The Rev. Bruce Gillette, co-pastor of Limestone Presbyterian Church, said the church's addition of solar panels has attracted new energy-conscious people to the congregation.

He brought a "green bible" to show audience members, urging them to purchase the bibles for libraries.

A green bible has passages on caring for God's creation highlighted in green.