Global warming and other environmental problems have emerged as the most controversial issues within a national coalition trying to broaden the agenda of evangelical Christians.
At a Capitol Hill forum March 10, the National Association of Evangelicals formally unveiled a document, “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,” that addresses a range of topics-from abortion and family issues to religious freedom, racial reconciliation and “care for God's earth.”
The document was approved by the association's board in October and has been signed by more than 80 evangelical leaders. But some who embraced the overall plan are now raising questions about its environmental emphasis.
“There are great sentiments about broad issues, about bringing evangelicals together, particularly whites and blacks,” said Tom Minnery-vice president of public policy for the conservative, Colorado-based Focus on the Family-in an interview. “The movement to preserve marriage characterizes evangelicalism. The issue of global warming does not characterize evangelicalism.”
Mariam M. Bell, national director of public policy for Prison Fellowship's Wilberforce Forum, agreed, saying Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson, an influential conservative, questioned where the discussion is headed.
“He is concerned that this could possibly be co-opted, this whole wonderful initiative, by the environmental left,” she said in an interview.
Ron Sider, one of the principal authors of the document, said association leaders have received mostly positive responses to the overall document and are addressing environmental issues along with other topics.
“They're not in any way making that their central crusade,” said Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, a more moderate group. “What's happening is you're getting a more biblically balanced agenda, which is exactly what the document calls for.”
Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Jewish Democrat from Connecticut, addressed the crowd of more than 120 by urging their advocacy on reduction of global warming, a topic of legislation he has co-sponsored.
“I hope you will join us in this effort to not only cultivate but better protect the earth or once more we will lose the garden for ourselves and for generations to come,” he said, referring to the Garden of Eden.
Other forum speakers said the document highlights the need to move beyond a focus on political parties and to concentrate in a new way on issues such as race relations.
Religion News Service