Making Straight the Way of the Green

Lots of excitement in certain quarters of the Roman Catholic Church about Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical about the environment, but Protestants wonder where the energy was when Protestants beat the papacy to the punch.

First, what’s coming:

Vatican officials announced Tuesday that Pope Francis’ much-anticipated encyclical letter on the environment is now finalized and is being translated into various languages, with an expected release date sometime in June.

The announcement came during a Rome summit on climate change co-sponsored by the Vatican and the United Nations, headlined by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

An encyclical letter is considered the most important, and most developed, form of papal teaching. This will be the first-ever encyclical entirely devoted to environmental themes.

Next, the excitement:

Ron Pagnucco of the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University “would like to see Francis continue to use the concept of ‘solidarity’ in the encyclical, discussing what global solidarity means in regards to the environment.”

“Just as Catholic social doctrine teaches that no person exists without society,” said Vince Miller of the University of Dayton, “we need to also learn that our species does not exist without the rest of creation.”

“How climate change and related environmental issues connect with other important concerns, including war and peace, economics, and health care,” needs to be articulated in the encyclical, according to Tobias Winright of St. Louis University.

“It is very important to discuss the environment, conflict and peace,” Pagnucco agreed, since environmental degradation is a “threat multiplier.”

The relationship between the environment and the economy is especially important.

“Environmentalists are looking to the pope for continued linkages to poverty and impact of degradation on the poor,” said Catholic Climate Covenant’s Ellis. Jesuit Fr. James Keenan of Boston College would also “like to see the sustainability issues related to climate change woven into issues related to economic inequality.”

Environmental problems are also connected to racism, said Alex Mikulich of Loyola University New Orleans. And “it would be important to consider the connection between the desire to dominate the earth/cosmos and domination of women,” according to M. Shawn Copeland of Boston College.

One of the reasons environmentalists are embracing religion is because it is one of the few things that can motivate people to sacrifice their own self-interest for the sake of others.

David Cloutier of Mount St. Mary’s University calls for a “forthright confrontation with so-called lifestyle choices.”

“It’s all the choices we make that cause the per capita carbon footprint of the average American to be roughly twice that of most European countries, and that cause the insanity of California lawns and water-thirsty agriculture,” he said. “I’m all for better laws and structures, but until we stop expecting strawberries in February, spacious living quarters, and large SUVs, I’m not sure how those structures change.”

Likewise, Scheid said he hopes for “a critique of consumerism and a ‘scrap culture’ or ‘throwaway culture’ that uses and then discards as trash people, especially the poor, created goods, and the Earth as a whole. I hope he ties the preferential option for the poor and solidarity with ecological concerns.”

Grazer said he hopes the pope “will call upon the larger and more wealthy nations to lead and make the ‘sacrifices’ needed to make urgent progress regarding climate change, and in particular, helping the most vulnerable people and nations mitigate and adapt to climate change.” The pope “needs to call for much greater leadership on the part of wealthier nations and also for sufficient changes in personal and corporate life style, moving away from consumerism,” he said.

But Miller of Dayton University stressed that structural change, not just individual choices, is essential. “Our moral and Christian obligation is not simply to change our consumption as individuals, but to collectively build a culture/society/civilization that is sustainable,” he said.

It requires “a broadening of moral responsibility to care for creation from individual choice to the larger, structural, policy responses that are required to address the environmental crises we face,” he said. “Yes, greed is a problem, but environmental despoliation is cooked into the system we have built.”

Peppard agreed that “market processes are not morally trustworthy guides to long-term flourishing of the physical bases on which all life depends” because the markets are oriented “towards short-term profit and economic growth without a recognition of natural capital as a substrate of those developments.”

How people and governments respond to the encyclical will be critical. “The theology of the encyclical is important,” said Marian Diaz of Loyola University Chicago, “but the implementation or the lack thereof matters more.”

But Protestants have been there and done that. First came the National Council of Churches in 200friggin’6, almost a decade ago:


Expresses its deep concern for the pending environmental, economic, and social tragedies threatened by global warming to creation, human communities, and traditional sacred spaces.

Urges the Federal Government to respond to global warming with greater urgency and leadership and gives support for mandatory measures that reduce the absolute amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and in particular emissions of carbon dioxide, to levels recommended by nationally and internationally recognized and respected scientific bodies.

Urges the Federal, State and Local Governments to support and invest in energy conservation and efficiency, sustainable and renewable, and affordable and sustainable transportation.

Calls for business and industry to respond to global warming with increased investment in conservation and more efficient and sustainable energy technologies that are accessible, sustainable, and democratic.

Stands firmly with all of God’s children by urging that adaptive measures and financial support be forthcoming from government and industry to aid those directly impacted by global warming and in particular those least able to relocate, reconstruct, or cope with the current and pending impacts of climate change.

Calls on all Christians, people of faith and people of good will the world over to lead by example and seek active means whereby they may, individually and in community, quickly reduce their emissions of green house gas emissions and speak out for engagement by their elected officials on matters of global warming.

In the same year, evangelicals added their moral heft:

The basic task for all of the world’s inhabitants is to find ways now to begin to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels that are the primary cause of human-induced climate change.

There are several reasons for urgency. First, deadly impacts are being experienced now. Second, the oceans only warm slowly, creating a lag in experiencing the consequences. Much of the climate change to which we are already committed will not be realized for several decades. The consequences of the pollution we create now will be visited upon our children and grandchildren. Third, as individuals and as a society we are making long-term decisions today that will determine how much carbon dioxide we will emit in the future, such as whether to purchase energy efficient vehicles and appliances that will last for 10-20 years, or whether to build more coal-burning power plants that last for 50 years rather than investing more in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

In the United States, the most important immediate step that can be taken at the federal level is to pass and implement national legislation requiring sufficient economy-wide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through cost-effective, market-based mechanisms such as a cap-and-trade program. On June 22, 2005 the Senate passed the Domenici-Bingaman resolution affirming this approach, and a number of major energy companies now acknowledge that this method is best both for the environment and for business.

We commend the Senators who have taken this stand and encourage them to fulfill their pledge. We also applaud the steps taken by such companies as BP, Shell, General Electric, Cinergy, Duke Energy, and DuPont, all of which have moved ahead of the pace of government action through innovative measures implemented within their companies in the U.S. and around the world. In so doing they have offered timely leadership.

Numerous positive actions to prevent and mitigate climate change are being implemented across our society by state and local governments, churches, smaller businesses, and individuals. These commendable efforts focus on such matters as energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy, low CO2 emitting technologies, and the purchase of hybrid vehicles. These efforts can easily be shown to save money, save energy, reduce global warming pollution as well as air pollution that harm human health, and eventually pay for themselves. There is much more to be done, but these pioneers are already helping to show the way forward.

Finally, while we must reduce our global warming pollution to help mitigate the impacts of climate change, as a society and as individuals we must also help the poor adapt to the significant harm that global warming will cause.

We the undersigned pledge to act on the basis of the claims made in this document. We will not only teach the truths communicated here but also seek ways to implement the actions that follow from them. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, we urge all who read this declaration to join us in this effort.

I understand that critics often blame Protestantism for encouraging modernity and lacking a sense of tradition, and once again Protestants seem to be out in front of Rome. But does 9 years count for establishing one’s traditionalist bona fides?


18 thoughts on “Making Straight the Way of the Green

  1. Who is Pope Francis to judge?

    We’re reached the point where politics dictate science. This explains why Senator Barbara Boxer recently attacked scientists like Yours Truly for (her words) disseminating research designed to “confuse the public.”

    Finally to the PAS document itself. There is scarcely anything in it that is scientifically accurate. Everywhere, it assumes what it seeks to prove, and uses model-based predictions of doom as proof the models are correct. The document is a dismal exercise in special pleading and is painful to read. It would take a small book to detail every mistake, so we’ll have to stick to the most curious.

    The opening sentences of its “Declaration”:

    Unsustainable consumption coupled with a record human population and the uses of inappropriate technologies are causally linked with the destruction of the world’s sustainability and resilience. Widening inequalities of wealth and income, the world-wide disruption of the physical climate system and the loss of millions of species that sustain life are the grossest manifestations of unsustainability.

    Causally linked are powerful words in science. It means we know why things happen. But we do not. If we did, our models would make good predictions. Wealth and income are growing more inequitable, but is that caused by blundering governments or a “world-wide disruption of the physical climate system”? Answer: there is no disruption. The claim that millions of species will turn in their dinner pails doesn’t even border on scientific malfeasance. It crosses over and enters into the sorrowful land of Deliberate Exaggeration.

    It is a well trodden realm. PAS says “Global warming is already having major impacts on extreme weather and climate events.” This is false. Unless by “impact” they mean the observed diminution of extreme events? “Collectively, this warming and the extreme events it has brought in its wake, such as heat waves, intense storms, and forest fires….” Ah. They do not. What else can I tell you except that this statement is demonstrably false? The document contains many of its brothers.

    Twenty years ago we were told there was still time, but only just. Action had to happen now, else the tipping point would be breached. We survived. But the PAS again says there is still time. If we act now. The call for action is proof of the theory bruited above: “The Catholic church, working with the leadership of other religions, can take a decisive role by mobilizing public opinion and public funds….”

    How? By “reorient[ing] our attitude toward nature and, thereby, toward ourselves” and by recognizing “religious institutions are in a special position to promote” sustainability. As I wrote elsewhere, if you think global warming’s bad, wait till you meet sustainability. Sustainability is the fundamentalism that will replace all other environmental causes. Global warming made itself vulnerable by exposing itself to verification. Sustainability is immune to testing. It is taken on faith.

    As I wrote, “True Sustainability is a goal ever disappearing into the distance, one which can never be reached, but which must be pursued with ever increasing vigor.” The PAS document is suffused with sustainability; the word or its variants appears dozens of times. They say we are engaged in “unsustainable consumption,” that climate change will “seriously threaten global sustainability,” that we must “save as much of the sustainable fabric of the world as possible,” that we must celebrate “living together in comfort and sustainably,” that we must “develop a sustainable relationship with our planet.”

    And what is the Pontifical Academy’s definition of sustainable? You guessed it. They never give one.


  2. Maybe demons are responsible for global warming:

    Francis’ respect for and practical belief in the reality of the demonic has allowed people who were hitherto shy about discussing the devil and similar facts to come out of the woodwork and ask for the graces and helps the Church provides in confronting Old Scratch. This includes exorcisms and there has been a corresponding uptick in priests getting trained to act as exorcists.

    People are often astonished to discover that I believe in the demonic. I’m even more astonished that, after the 20th century, anybody could doubt the existence of the demonic. The arguments of postmoderns are typically absurd non sequiturs like “But this is 2015!”, a reply with all the logical rigor of “But this is Tueday, April 14!” or “But this is 12:15 in the afternoon!”


  3. So while Father Dwight thinks he’s found the authority he’s been waiting for:

    I left because the debate over women’s ordination revealed to me the need for a greater authority in the church to decide contentious questions.
    In other words, I didn’t leave to escape women’s ordination.
    I left to embrace apostolic authority.

    The church with apostolic authority doesn’t seem to recognize it:

    The main bone of contention in this debate is climate change. While we do believe that this is an issue that has serious implications on human welfare, we are not choosing to argue its merits today. On the contrary, we acknowledge the right of all parties engaged in the debate to participate in a rational and responsible exchange of thoughts, ideas and information.

    A line is crossed, however, when such rational exchange turns into venom-spewing, ideologically based commentary. And this is what has taken place. Well before the encyclical’s release, a veritable campaign against its content has not only been initiated, but has been growing in intensity. That these efforts presuppose the document’s content is bad enough, but they have gone much further. Some Catholic observers and commentators have recommended that their fellow members in faith completely ignore the work, calling it baseless and not a priority. Others have even mocked the Holy Father and questioned his mental state. It’s shameful behavior, and hardly befitting a Church that calls itself “one, holy and apostolic.”

    That the majority of this vitriol should come at the hands of self-styled conservatives is as disappointing as it is ironic. Just a few short years ago, with Pope Benedict at the helm of the Church, it was these same Catholics calling on their self-styled liberal counterparts to not ignore or berate the teachings or the office of the Holy Father — in short to not be “cafeteria Catholics” when they disagreed with Benedict. Now the situation is reversed, and these offended Catholics are becoming the perpetrators of the same offensive abuse.

    It’s true that Catholics are not required to agree with every word that is proclaimed by the pope. His infallibility is used sparingly, as is prudent. But to prejudge his teaching is unacceptable. To disparage, cast aside and belittle the leader of the Church is worse. Not only is it profoundly disrespectful to the office, it’s simply the wrong behavior for Catholics to be engaging in. It’s nasty, negative spin.

    As disciples of the Lord who preached against casting stones, we should be better than that. We should be more loyal than that. We should be holier than that.

    The converts’ dilemma continues.


  4. It’s true that Catholics are not required to agree with every word that is proclaimed by the pope. His infallibility is used sparingly, as is prudent. But to prejudge his teaching is unacceptable. To disparage, cast aside and belittle the leader of the Church is worse. Not only is it profoundly disrespectful to the office, it’s simply the wrong behavior for Catholics to be engaging in. It’s nasty, negative spin.

    As disciples of the Lord who preached against casting stones, we should be better than that. We should be more loyal than that. We should be holier than that.

    Indeed dilemmas abound. Who’s next at OL 😯


  5. Whose call, which authority, science or the pontiff:

    The hierarchy of the Catholic Church has no expertise in science. If bishops and cardinals and even Roman Pontiffs throw their support behind one side of a scientific debate—in this case, if they ally themselves with the climate-change theorists—they might add to the political pressure on the skeptics. But that will not alter the scientific facts.

    So let me return to my initial question. If the Catholic Church endorses the climate-change hypothesis, and later developments prove that hypothesis wrong, what will be the net result? The result, I fear, will be skepticism: not about climate issues, but about the authority of the Catholic Church. Critics of Catholicism will say that the Vatican had learned nothing from the Galileo affair, and had again exerted its moral authority improperly in a scientific debate.

    Of course that unhappy outcome would occur only if the climate-change hypothesis is proven wrong. If the hypothesis is confirmed, then the Vatican’s support will seem justified. But since the debate is unsettled, is it prudent for the Vatican to gamble on the outcome?

    Cui bono? Who profits from the Vatican’s involvement in the climate-change debate? Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the UN, has been delighted with the Vatican’s participation in the debate. He told this week’s conference in Rome that religious and scientific leaders should cooperate: “Together, we must clearly communicate that the science of climate change is deep, sound, and not in doubt.” In other words he welcomed the Vatican’s willingness to make a statement on a scientific question.

    Speaking on climate change, Ban Ki-moon insisted: “It is a moral issue. It is an issue of social justice, human rights, and fundamental ethics.” Well, then, I hope the UN leadership will be equally willing to accept the Vatican’s guidance on moral issues, on issues of human rights and fundamental ethics.


  6. Who‘s leading whom?

    “Well before the encyclical’s release,” the OSV board observes, “a veritable campaign against its content has not only been initiated, but has been growing in intensity.” That’s quite true. In fact I made the same observation myself, back in January: “Would it be unreasonable to suggest that we should postpone the discussion of the document until the document appears?”

    The OSV statement goes on to complain that some criticism of the papal document has descended into “venom-spewing, ideologically based commentary,” and chides politically conservative Catholics who, in their unseemly haste to dispute the Pope’s teaching, are acting like the “cafeteria Catholics” they so often disdain. Fair enough. There are, unfortunately, many conservative pundits ready to denounce the encyclical—and its author—without making any attempt to discern the Pope’s real message.

    Still I hope my friends as OSV would recognize that conservatives are not alone in their pre-emptive arguments about the encyclical. There is indeed a campaign already underway in opposition to the document. But there’s also a campaign to hijack the encyclical, using it as “waving material” for leftist political campaigns without regard to its contents.

    Put it this way: If it’s wrong for conservatives to attack the Pope for what they fear he will say, it’s also wrong for liberals to applaud the Pope for what the hope he’ll says. The attacks are more rancorous and offensive than the applause, but neither is respectful of the Pope’s teaching authority.


  7. Turns out papal encyclicals don’t do much:

    I disagree with Dr Oddie’s claim that encyclicals commit the Church to a particular line for years to come. They do when they deal with strict points of theological doctrine, but not so in social doctrine. The social teaching of the Church has immense richness, and the world would be better off if it paid more heed to it. Yet because her social teaching is an application of theological principles to the changing circumstances of the social order, the particular judgments of Catholic social teaching are highly contingent on accurate social, economic, and even scientific analysis. If that analysis is not accurate, the Church simply moves on as circumstances change. Encyclicals can be forgotten like last year’s weather.

    For example, in 1967 Blessed Paul VI published his encyclical on the urgent issue of global economic development, Populorum Progressio. There was a widespread consensus that alleviation of abject poverty in the poorest countries mandated massive transfers of wealth from the rich nations, and that economic development had to be co-ordinated, managed and planned. This task would fall to the state, and to agreements between states.

    “It is for the public authorities to establish and lay down the desired goals, the plans to be followed, and the methods to be used in fulfilling them; and it is also their task to stimulate the efforts of those involved in this common activity,” Paul VI wrote, accepting this consensus. “But they must also see to it that private initiative and intermediary organisations are involved in this work. In this way they will avoid total collectivisation and the dangers of a planned economy which might threaten human liberty and obstruct the exercise of man’s basic human rights.”

    Paul VI endorsed economic planning as necessary, but warned the faithful against the (inherent?) dangers of economic planning. Whether that balance was ever possible, it turned out that the most rapidly developing countries in the subsequent decades were those most open to trade and least given to economic planning.

    The Church took note and largely left the economic prescriptions of Populorum, and the widespread 1967 consensus they represented, behind.

    Indeed, when he commemorated the 20th anniversary of Populorum Progressio in 1987 with his own encyclical on development, St John Paul II instead advanced the concept of economic liberty – the “right to economic initiative” – as the key to development.

    On another matter though, John Paul reflected a widespread consensus of his day, writing about the Cold War division of the world. “In today’s world, including the world of economics, the prevailing picture is one destined to lead us more quickly towards death rather than one of concern for true development which would lead all towards a more human life, as envisaged by the encyclical Populorum Progressio,” John Paul wrote in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis. Within two years the Cold War was over, Communism defeated and all the talk in Sollicitudo about opposing blocs leading the world towards death was left behind.

    Social encyclicals present the best thinking of the popes at the time. If that thinking turns out to be wrong on matters beyond the magisterium’s theological competence, the Church will not remain committed to mistaken ideas. Not only the climate can change.

    Wouldn’t the pope like to buy a “thus saith the Lord”?


  8. Michael expects the papal encyclical to be mainstream:

    Let me stress again: for the past 120 years. Yes, there has never before been an encyclical on the environment, so this will be groundbreaking in one sense. But, I anticipate that the theology in the encyclical will be very mainstream, even conservative. It is the problem of environmental degradation that is new, not the self-revelation of Jesus Christ on which our Catholic social teaching is based. When the encyclical comes out, and some conservative writer or talking head calls it “radical” ask them where is the radicalness? I suspect the theology will be very straight forward. The pope is not going to be celebrating the Gospel according to Gaia, he is going to be celebrating the Book of Genesis which, contra our fundamentalist friends, is not a book about geology but a book of theology. He will continue on through the spirituality of Saint Francis, an on to the great social encyclicals of Leo XIII, Pius XI, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. This is not touchy-feely, radical environmentalism. It is orthodoxy.

    I wonder if Francis will be citing Peter I:

    For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2 Peter 3:5-7 ESV)


  9. Is Laudato Si the “gospel in action”? Maureen doesn’t think so.

    Gospel quotations are bent to serve. In the chapter “The Gaze of Jesus,” we read this: “98. Jesus lived in full harmony with creation, and others were amazed: ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’ (Mt 8:27).”

    That passage from Matthew has not a thing to do with harmony. Rather, it tells of Jesus’ dominion over nature. It is a statement of authority, of lordship over the natural order. The verse complements one from John: “He that cometh from above is above all.” By abolishing the scriptural intuition of power and might, the truncated quotation makes Jesus a screen on which to project a chimera of cosmic equality.

    But in a culture of implicit faith, who are they to judge the successor to St. Peter?


  10. Yet more evidence that Pope Francis is merely going not so boldly where Protestants have already gone:

    In his essay “God and Country,” Berry describes himself as “deeply estranged from most of the manifestations of organized religion.” Yet, while reading Laudato Si—the encyclical penned by the leader of the largest religious organization in the world—my thoughts regularly returned to the uncollared Southern shepherd who favors the King James Version of the Bible. However they each got there, the Bishop of Rome and the solitary Sage of Henry County have been drinking from the same well.

    Central to Pope Francis’s recent work is the idea that “the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others.” This is a theme Berry develops in numerous places, most notably his seminal essay on Christian environmental stewardship, “The Gift of Good Land.” Both counsel gratitude and humility, for this gift (like any real gift) is far from deserved. Berry calls hubris “the great ecological sin” and Francis warns that “once we lose our humility, and become enthralled with the possibility of limitless mastery over everything, we inevitably end up harming society and the environment.”

    Francis and Berry both preach against an individualism that trumps community and compassion; note the Creator’s love for his creation regardless of its utility to humanity; and affirm a special status for people but rebuff a theology that equates our “dominion” with an unfettered domination. They decry what Francis calls the “rapidification” of culture and the over-specialization of knowledge; reject a hyper-dualism that completely severs body and soul, the spiritual and the earthly; and are even similarly wary of our relational reliance on electronic screens. Berry famously described “eating” as “an agricultural act.” Francis, quoting his predecessor Benedict XVI, makes a similar, if broader, point: “Purchasing is always a moral—and not simply economic—act.”

    The two also offer extended criticism of what the Pope calls a “deified market” and Berry deems “an opposing religion, assigning to technological progress and ‘the market’ the same omnipotence, omniscience, unquestionability, even the same beneficence that the Christian teachings assign to God.” Moving on from the shared renunciations, they each praise the actions often taken by small landowners and local peoples and affirm the value of physical work and artistic beauty. In short, both men refuse to swallow the myth of progress or, conversely, diagnose humanity as a planetary cancer.

    Significantly, but to the consternation of American political labelers, Berry and Francis also link the care of the earth with the care of the unborn. Francis sees this as part of an “integral ecology” and as an aspect of what he calls a “culture of care.” In one of several passages on the topic, the Pope says clearly, “Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion.”



  11. Will this reduce carbon emissions?

    So far, the Global Catholic Climate Movement has sent materials to 75 parishes in the Manila archdiocese to collect signatures at Sunday Masses, and plans to spread the campaign to the regions of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

    The campaign also asks people to seek ways to reduce their carbon footprint, fast from meat on Fridays, and pray for an ecological conversion of heart. The campaign peaks during the Season of Creation, a celebration proposed in 2003 by the Philippine bishops that runs Sept. 1 through Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

    At its biannual plenary session, the Philippine bishops’ conference heard a presentation on the campaign, signed the petition and also considered establishing a climate change desk.


  12. Before Pope Francis, St. Francis (Schaeffer, that is):

    It begins, “What have they done to our fair sister?” If you have had a chance to skim the Vatican’s latest offering, you might understandably think you know from what I am quoting. After all, in Laudato Si’ (Praise Be to You) the second sentence introduces us to “our Sister, Mother Earth” and the third reads, “This sister cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her.” Yet my opening words come not from the pope, but from another Francis—Francis Schaeffer. They initiate what one might well call an evangelical encyclical on the care of our common home. Pollution and the Death of Man was published in 1970 and has remained in print ever since, and in light of the recent missive from Rome, it is well worth reading again.


  13. Here‘s a fuller account of how much Pope Francis used a mainline Protestant playbook (dated at that):

    Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA)

    Living a carbon neutral lifestyle is part of the Christian lifestyle, according to PCUSA.

    The PCUSA’s General Assembly resolved as much in 2006, saying the denomination “[s]trongly urges all Presbyterians to immediately make a bold witness by aspiring to live carbon neutral lives.” True Christians were compelled by Scripture “to reduce our energy usage,” according to the resolution.

    The rationale behind this claim? “Global climate change is predominantly caused by our burning of fossil fuels, like coal, oil, and natural gas, which emit greenhouse gases,” the assembly said. They further insisted that the “consensus” position among scientists was that humans were causing dangerous global warming.

    Not content with merely pushing climate activism from the pulpit, the PCUSA also supported far-reaching government intervention to spread their carbon morality. In a report approved by the General Assembly in 2008 called The Power to Change: U.S. Energy Policy and Global Warming, the PCUSA backed “comprehensive, mandatory, and aggressive emission reductions that aim to limit the increase in Earth’s temperature to 2 degrees Celsius or less from pre-industrial levels.”

    The report specifically endorsed U.S. legislation that would reduce carbon emissions in the country by 80 percent by 2050 in order to halt the “catastrophic consequences” of global warming. While New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and President Barack Obama have since proposed almost identical goals, economists at The Heritage Foundation found that such massive government intervention could “damage the U.S. economy severely.”

    United Methodist Church (UMC)

    The United Methodist Church makes no secret that it thinks climate change is happening and is caused by humans.

    “Rampant industrialization” and an “increase in the use of fossil fuels” are producing higher temperatures, the UMC holds in its Social Principles. These principles state that in response, governments must impose “mandatory reductions” on greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. They also call on congregations to voluntarily “reduce their emissions.”

    In a resolution in 2008, UMC portended that climate change would pose dire consequences for “human populations in the future.” In typical climate-alarmist fashion, the resolution listed a host of scary-sounding ramifications of global warming that were supposedly already happening, including “sea level rise, shrinking glaciers, changes in the range and distribution of plants and animals.”

    UMC staff also “informally” organized members to join in the People’s Climate March ahead of the United Nation’s Climate Summit in New York City in September 2014, according to the United Methodist News Service (UMNS). Marchers demanded aggressive action by the U.N. to counter the alleged effects of climate change. “We need on-the-ground pressure,” United Methodist Women’s Rev. Kathleen Stone told UMNS regarding her enthusiastic participation in the march.

    Episcopal Church

    Climate skeptics are sinful and fossil fuels are immoral, as far as Episcopal Church officials are concerned.

    Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said at an Episcopal Church forum about the global warming “crisis” on March 26, 2015, that there was a “clear consensus” that human behavior was driving climate change. She said those who disagreed were “often driven by greed and self-centered political interests, and sometimes by willful blindness.”

    “The Judeo-Christian tradition has always called those motivations sinful,” Jefferts Schori said. She later added, “We can choose to change our destructive and overly consumptive ways, or we can ignore the consequences of our actions.”

    The Episcopal Church has also taken a “moral” stand against fossil fuels, even though experts have said that reducing access to these affordable sources of energy would severely hurt the poor. Just weeks after the Pope Francis’ climate encyclical, the denomination voted in July to divest a portion of its holdings from fossil fuels and instead invest in renewable energy. Dioceses and parishes were urged to do the same.

    “The vote says that this is a moral issue and that we really have to think about where we are putting our money,” Nebraska diocese Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett told The Guardian (UK). It was important the Church act, Bennett said, because climate change was killing off animal species and threatening human lives.

    The liberal Guardian, which itself campaigns for widespread fossil fuel divestment, noted that the United Church of Christ (UCC) made a similar move in 2013, while UMC divested from coal earlier this year.

    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA)

    The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America finds itself on the same page as the Episcopal Church, calling for climate “repentance.”

    On September 19, 2014, the ECLA joined with the Episcopal Church and two other denominations, the Anglican Church of Canada and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, to release “A Pastoral Message on Climate Change.” Church officials who signed on to the document, including Jefferts Schori and ECLA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, declared that “an accounting of climate change that has credibility and integrity must include our own repentance.”

    That declaration came after ECLA allied with the Episcopal Church on the issue in May 2013, along with the Church of Sweden (Lutheran). The denominations’ officials publicly declared they were “painfully aware” that residents of the Northern Hemisphere were “responsible historically for the majority of greenhouse-gas emissions” supposedly causing climate change.

    They added that “we repent and ask forgiveness” for environmental sins including causing climate change and the “desecration of the world God so loves.”

    The officials also called for “national and international policies and regulations” to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, and for the Church to advocate for fighting climate change “at the local, national and international levels.”


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