Evangelicals Protect Creation

Evangelicals and Climate Scientists: the Genesis of an Unlikely Alliance
Rev. Rich Cizik and Majora Carter of Sustainable South Bronx discuss environmental stewardship and why Christians should care at the 2007 Q gathering. Photo courtesy of the Fermi Project.

Twenty-eight senior evangelical leaders and world-renowned climate scientists took a leap of faith when they met at Melhana, a secluded Georgia plantation, in December 2006.

Years of politically charged dissent over evolution had distanced the mostly pro-Bush, socially conservative evangelicals from scientists—and the case for preventing global warming. But the Melhana group had reasons to believe that understanding between the two sides was possible. Reverend Richard Cizik, a leader with the National Association of Evangelicals and organizer of the Melhana meeting, had converted from a climate skeptic to a believer four years previously at a Christian environmental forum. As he heard evidence of shrinking ice caps and increasing hurricane intensity, he had an experience “not unlike my earlier conversion to Christ,” he says. Cizik has since fought staunch opposition within the evangelical movement to speak out for action on climate change.

The tension between the climate scientists and evangelicals dissolved at Melhana. “We quickly came to realize that we shared exactly the same reverence and the same concern about what is happening to the creation,” said James McCarthy, Harvard scientist and president-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Together the group drafted an “Urgent Call to Action,” stating, “We believe that the protection of life on Earth … requires a new moral awakening to a compelling demand, clearly articulated in Scripture and supported by science … We pledge to work together at every level to lead our nation toward a responsible care for creation.”

In the year since Melhana, evangelicals have continued to seek urgent action on global warming. The Evangelical Climate Initiative has run a series of ads defining the issue as a moral imperative, and Reverend Jim Ball, representing more than 100 evangelical leaders, testified in July before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, calling for a “vigorous response” to climate change, including cap-and-trade, a carbon tax, and policies that protect the poor. In August 2007, Cizik led another group of evangelicals and scientists through Alaska to witness firsthand glacial melting and the devastation of an island village off the Alaska coast.

The climate of discussion is changing within the evangelical community, giving renewed hope for Earth—a hope that is widely shared by other faiths and communities.

Calvin B. Dewitt wrote this article as part of Stop Global Warming Cold, the Spring 2008 issue of YES! Magazine. Cal is an ecologist, professor, cofounder of the Evangelical Environmental Network and the Au Sable Institute, and author of Earth-Wise: A Biblical Response to Environmental Issues. Photo of Calvin B. Dewitt
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