(Photo: New Baptist Covenant)
Former Vice President Al Gore found a responsive crowd among thousands of Baptists when he brought his green message to Atlanta Thursday.
Speaking to nearly 2,500 Baptists at a luncheon during a wider Baptist gathering, Gore, a Baptist, challenged them to face the very real moral crisis of global warming and appealed to save God's creation.
"When did people of faith get so locked into an ideological coalition, that they have got to go along with the wealthiest and most powerful who don't want to see change of the kind that is aimed at helping people and protecting God's green earth?" Gore asked.
He decried religious leaders who rejected global warming as a real crisis and urged the Baptist crowd to spread the message of the dangers of climate change.
"We who are Baptists are not going to tolerate heaping contempt on God's creation," said Gore, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change. "It's up to us to send that message, as Christians, as Baptists, as Americans."
His green message came in the middle of a broad Baptist meeting which has drawn Baptists from over 30 organizations representing 20 million Baptists throughout North America. The "Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant" is spearheaded by former President Jimmy Carter and aims at ending internal divisions and creating cooperation among Baptists around social causes.
The Rev. Jimmy Allen, an organizer of the Baptist meeting and a former Southern Baptist president, said Gore's presentation was key for the conference.
"This (climate change) is an issue that has found its day," Allen said, according to Cox News Service. "It is one of the major moral issues of our time."
Evangelicals are increasingly speaking out against greenhouse gas emissions and signing up to make environment protection a priority. They argue that "creation care" is a biblical mandate and some, like the Rev. Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals, equate the issue with the sanctity of life in importance and urgency.
But not all Christian groups agree with the assessments of the threat of global warming and say it's diverting attention away from more important issues like protecting traditional families and the unborn.
Gore's green message, however, seemed to resonate with Baptists at the Atlanta conference who showed their support by giving him several standing ovations.
"The environment is the No. 1 issue in terms of how we are putting hands and feet to the call of Christ - not just saying but doing," said Bailey Edwards Nelson, a 24-year-old divinity school student at Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, as reported by The News & Observer.
Calling creation care a Christian responsibility, Jan Moore of Venice, Fla., said she will apply evangelical witnessing to the issue.
"For the ones who choose to ignore it, it is our job to bug them until they get on board," Moore told Cox News Service.
Gore challenged Baptists to make a difference by not only using environmental-friendly products but by challenging political leaders to pass legislation that would reduce carbon emissions.
"The purpose of life is to glorify God," he said. "And if we continue to heap contempt on God's creation, that is inconsistent with glorifying God.
"In every crisis there is an opportunity for a reawakening and for a reassessment and for a change of course and an opportunity to do things better, and that's what the climate crisis is really all about."