With Pope Francis visiting the U.S., several officials of Mainline Protestant denominations took the opportunity to parade their favorite social justice cause: global warming.
The officials, including the presiding bishops of the Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA), once again imbued their crusade against what they assert is manmade global warming with heavy-handed, moralistic language. In a USA Today op-ed on September 23, they declared their solidarity with the Pope over opposition to “environmental degradation,” bemoaned how the world was “being defiled by pollutants and waste,” and renewed their call “on the members of our churches to respond to the challenge of climate change.”
What these officials failed to admit was that global warming remains a hotly debated topic among scientists. There is still no consensus about what might be causing it, much less how to fix it. Some question the extent to which temperatures are even increasing.
Cornwall Alliance Spokesman Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, writing in the IRD’s Mount Nebo Papers Spring 2008 issue, explained that “there is good reason to doubt the popular claim that human action is driving catastrophic climate change.” He argued instead that “recent and foreseeable climate changes are cyclical, largely natural, well within the bounds of historic variability, and neither already nor likely to become catastrophic.”
But such reasoned arguments by Beisner and other experts have failed to stop mainline denominations from engaging in climate alarmism and calling Christians to “repentance” for causing climate change. Mixing questionable science with social justice activism, denominations including the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), United Methodist Church (UMC), Episcopal Church, and ECLA have a proven track record of crusading against manmade global warming.
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.
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.”