WASHINGTON – Two unlikely communities came together on Wednesday, fusing words of faith and science into a powerful weapon against climate change.
A newly formed coalition of leading evangelicals and scientists is garnering the attention of the political, science, and faith communities for its ability to overcome long-held differences and unite in one voice to speak about the global environment.
“By standing together, we’re saying as evangelicals that science can be an ally in helping us understand what Creation is telling us about itself and indirectly about its Maker,” said the Rev. Rich Cizik, vice president for government affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals.
The coalition – which began with talks between Cizik and Eric Chivian, Nobel laureate and director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School – released the statement “Urgent Call to Action” signed by 28 evangelical and scientific leaders.
Statements were sent to President George W. Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, congressional leaders, and national evangelical and scientific organizations urging “fundamental change in values, lifestyles, and public policies required to address these worsening problems before it is too late.”
The coalition aims to use scientific facts coupled with Christian voices to press for changes in energy consumption and other factors affecting the environment in public policies and in churches.
Although there was apparent harmony between the two communities at the press conference, both sides admit they had misconceptions of each other going into the historic Melhana retreat last year which resulted in the formation of the coalition.
Chivian said he expected some of the evangelicals would see him as a “latte-sipping,” “New York Times” reader, while scientists might see evangelicals as “Hummer driving, Bible-thumping, fire-breathing” Christians.
However, the Harvard scientist said, “We discovered that we both were speaking from our hearts and our minds that we really liked each other, and we were there because we share a very deep and profound concern for what was happening to the creation, the global environment.”
Collaboration between Christians and scientists on a public issue is not unique to the coalition. The Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren has often emphasized the need for partnerships between the government, non-governmental organizations, and the church. During the annual “Purpose Driven” HIV/AIDS Conference, Harvard scientists, senators, White House representatives and NGOs convened to learn and network with each other to fight the global epidemic.
Joel Hunter, senior pastor of the Northland Church, a Florida-megachurch, agrees that there is a necessity for partnership between the groups. He said the scientific community has the facts needed to present to congregants and the church has the number of activists needed to make a “significant impact.”
“We believe that in these days, God is putting together groups of people with a common cause who might have seemed adversarial at times in the past,” noted Hunter. “These new collaborative efforts will make the world healthier and safer for everyone.”
Not all evangelicals support the coalition though. The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, formed by evangelicals, argues that scientific evidence counters claims of climate change. ISA responded to Wednesday’s announcement as “just another attempt to create the impression of growing consensus among evangelicals about global warming.”
“There is no such growing consensus,” it stated, according to The Associated Press.