Southern Baptists: Our Position on Global Warming Was Misrepresented

Published May 1, 2008

The Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative has issued a Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change that global warming activists are using to give the false impression of a major split among Southern Baptists over global warming. In fact, no such split has materialized.

Conflicting Scientific Research

The declaration has 44 signatories. According to its most prominent signer, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Frank Page, the official position of the SBC has not changed from earlier resolutions that question global warming alarmist claims.

In a press statement accompanying the March 10 declaration, Page emphasized, “As Southern Baptist Convention president, I totally stand behind the resolutions that have been passed in recent years. … The scientific research on human-induced global warming is conflicting at best.”

Last year more than 8,600 duly elected Southern Baptist “messengers” representing some 3,500 churches and 16 million members voted overwhelmingly to urge caution “in the human-induced global warming debate in light of conflicting scientific research.” They called for public policies that guarantee “an appropriate balance between care for the environment, effects on economics, and impacts on the poor when considering programs to reduce [emissions].”

New Declaration Unclear

The new declaration says much less than what activists have claimed. It acknowledges that respected scientists and informed Christians disagree sharply about the severity and causes of global warming. It admits the signers lack sufficient expertise to evaluate competing claims. It points out that environmental concerns are secondary to abortion and family for Christians, and that our response to climate change cannot be derived directly from Scripture.

The new declaration contains ambiguities, however. It calls for a unified moral voice on climate change, but its “intense concern” is divorced from any willingness to engage even the simplest practical questions. Which scientists have the better argument? Is adapting to climate change more effective than attempts to stop it? Which would save more lives and make better use of current technology?

The signers don’t specify. Instead, after stating there is conflicting evidence, they resolve to stop “lingering over the basic reality of the problem or our responsibility to address it … however great or small.”

The new declaration warns that caution “may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless, and ill-informed,” but it doesn’t say what should be done. It derides as “too timid” the resolution adopted last summer with overwhelming support at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, but it goes no farther and shows less awareness of the difficult scientific and economic debates that complicate the issue.

Dr. E. Calvin Beisner ([email protected]) is national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.