Bahai News - Clergy brings global warming to the pulpit

Clergy brings global warming to the pulpit

Sunday, November 12, 2000
By Mike Stark

In Oregon, more than a dozen religious faiths, from Bahai to Unitarian, are represented in a coalition to curb global warming.

Add a new lesson to Sunday school in Oregon: global warming.

Religious leaders in the state are mobilizing in a newly declared war on global climate change, and they're drawing the front lines with their own congregations. Rabbis and other religious leaders from a variety of denominations have vowed to meet global warming head-on, educating their followers and pushing for political change on national and international stages.

In a statement signed by clergy throughout Oregon, the leaders pledged to make global warming a regular part of sermons and lessons, going so far as to offer tips on making homes more energy efficient and investing in globally conscious companies. They also vowed to put pressure on business and political leaders to address the growing problem.

"We intend to move the challenge of climate change from the laboratories of science and the halls of diplomacy to the pulpits and the pews of the American heartland," said Rev. John Huenink of the Presbytery of the Cascades in Eugene, Oregon.

Late last month, more than 90 clergy and religious lay leaders in Oregon met at a state park to get up to speed on global warming issues from top scientists and learn about motivating their communities to fight the issue at the grass roots. Next year, similar workshops will be held around the state.

The effort is part of the "Interfaith Global Warming Campaign" initiated last year and involving 16 states. The campaign includes a broad spectrum of faith groups and denominations where Catholics, Protestants and Jews and others have joined forces to call for strong action to protect the planet from the dangers of climate change.

The Oregon campaign comes on the heels of a study a year ago November from the University of Washington on the impact that climate change may have in the Pacific Northwest by 2050. Of chief concern are more droughts in the summer, more flooding in the winter, and strains on water supplies, irrigation, hydropower systems and endangered salmon runs.

Church leaders decided it's time to bridge the gap between the pulpit and politics out of moral and religious responsibility, said Jenny Holmes, program director for Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon's Interfaith Network for Earth Concerns.

"The issue is justice for all creation. Creation is a gift entrusted to us and we're responsible to future generations, to our neighbors across the street and to our neighbors across the world," she said.

One of the goals of religious leaders in Oregon is to urge the state's U.S. senators to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, an international call to reduce greenhouse gases by 2008. Closer to home, the effort includes pushing utilities to cut greenhouse emissions, supporting sustainable development, making church facilities more efficient, promoting energy-saving measures at home and including global warming in worship.

This is the second time that the state's religious leaders have rallied behind an environmental cause. In 1996, 60 leaders signed their name to a declaration voicing concerns about losing endangered species. Global warming is now the galvanizing issue.

"As we approach the new millennium, the faith community of Oregon is called by the Jubilee message in Leviticus 25 to restore the land, re-establish justice and free the oppressed every 50 years," said Rev. Eugene Ross of the United Church of Christ. "Jubilee asks us to acknowledge that we are only tenants on the Earth, and that the climate is God's creation too."

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