The National Association of Evangelicals and a U.S. government energy program teamed up Tuesday in what was thought to be the first religious-government partnership to tackle energy consumption in religious facilities.
Some 65 evangelical leaders gathered at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn. – the home church of NAE president the Rev. Leith Anderson – to learn how to make their church building more energy efficient.
Attendees of the "Creation Care and the Church" luncheon were encouraged to reduce their congregation's energy consumption and protect the environment while lowering monthly bills.
Jerry Lawson, national manager of Energy Star Small Business & Congregations Network, and the Rev. Richard Cizik, NAE vice president for governmental affairs, urged local Minnesota pastors to make their church building green.
"If America's more than 300,000 houses of worship cut energy use by ten percent, they would save nearly $200 million each year – money that could be used for missions and other priorities," Cizik said.
"It would also prevent the annual release of more than 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent to the emissions generated by about 400,000 cars or the planting of over a half million acres of trees."
Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, was held up as an example for not only helping the environment by cutting energy consumption, but also for reportedly saving a million dollars last year on its energy bill.
Yet Cizik readily acknowledged that most pastors lack the knowledge on how to make their church more energy efficient.
"Do pastors lack the knowledge? Yes," he told The Christian Post Wednesday.
Although pastors lack knowledge, they are an important "moral voice" in the society-wide change of being more environmentally conscience, said Cizik. He advised pastors to appoint a facility manager to take the lead on reducing their churches' energy consumption if they are not able to manage the project themselves.
Cizik is among a growing number of evangelical leaders who argue creation care is not only good public policy but a biblical mandate.
"People need to understand that creation care and the sanctity of life are both biblical principles and they overlap," said the evangelical leader when broached on the topic of creation care versus abortion – a key issue for most evangelicals.
Cizik, known for his zealous environmental crusades, pointed to medical health surveys that show one out of six children born in America – or 600,000 annually – are afflicted with permanent disabilities including mental retardation that are directly attributed to mercury poison from air pollution caused by coal burning utilities plant.
"If you are for the sanctity of life and ignore the health impact of the environment on the unborn, I think that is a limited understanding of how everything is connected in life," Cizik said.
"You can't separate either these principles like taking care of the earth and the sanctity of life – they overlap," the NAE leader contended. "So to say you are pro-life but to ignore what is occurring to the unborn from environmental degradation is an abomination."
Cizik called moral beliefs and personal actions two sides of the same "spiritual coin," and criticized what he called a "Dalmatian theology" – where a person is inconsistent in their belief on an issue.
"You can't say the unborn in the womb that are threatened by abortion are more worthy of our attention than the unborn in the womb who are damaged by the environment," Cizik said. "How can you say that?
"Are some babies in the womb more worthy of our protection than others? I don't think so. They are all worthy of our protection."
The evangelical leader, who had a "conversion" to creation care in 2002 at a climate change conference, predicts that evangelicals will "absolutely" look at a presidential candidates' stance on environmental issues when casting their vote.
NAE has increasingly promoted creation care to its members through doctrines, organizing events, and through Cizik's nationwide speaking engagements.
"Let's face it, evangelicals are the go-to religious community on policy issues relative to creation care and the environment and we want our churches to likewise in their community to be faithful witnesses on matters concerning stewardship of the earth," the NAE vice president said.
"In doing so they open the hearts of otherwise secular people to the Gospel in ways heretofore they didn't consider."
The NAE, which represents some 30 million evangelicals, has urged member congregations to take the Energy Star Challenge and reduce their churches' energy use by ten percent or more.
On the Web: www.energystar.gov/congregations