Add a new lesson to Sunday school in Oregon: global
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
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
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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