British Methodists have discovered their new role in an increasingly secular Great Britain: Fight Global Warming!
At their July annual conference, the British Methodists heard how Global Warming is simultaneously causing drought in Kenya and too much rain in El Salvador, while "drowning" the poor Fiji Islands.
"It is a moral issue," insisted one Methodist preacher. "It is worse than unjust; it is a sin." Needless to point out, most of the "sin" of global heat is coming from America. But the British Methodists confessed to their own share of carbon depravity.
Perhaps the British Methodists were remembering their spiritual forefather, 18th century evangelist John Wesley, who crisscrossed the British Isles warning of the perils of climate change. Suffering under the lower temperatures the Little Ice Age, when the River Thames would freeze over, Wesley demanded international treaties that would halt the long winters and reduced growing seasons that further oppressed Britain's poor. As advancing glaciers crushed Swiss villages, and Nordic villages were trapped by ice, Wesley cried out for a global climate consciousness!
Actually, not. Wesley generated hundreds of thousands of converts by preaching the Gospel, not apocalyptic climate change activism, or any other dubious political message.
Inverting the priorities of their founder, today's British Methodists seem to have set aside making Christian converts in favor of trendier causes, such as Global Warming. Having lost about 30 percent of their membership just since 1970, and now down to fewer than 300,000, the British Methodists perhaps have decided they can save the planet even if they cannot save souls.
A giant footprint appeared at the British Methodist Annual Conference in Blackpool to illustrate the supposedly troubling carbon contribution of the naughty United Kingdom. Meanwhile, representatives from exploited Third World nations carried the baby-sized carbon footprints of their own victim nations. Relishing the guilt trip, the British Methodists resolved to make global warming a chief priority.
"We are hearing from partner churches about the increasing injustice that climate change inflicts on the poorest nations," the church's social justice official insisted to the delegates, who braced themselves for nightmarish reports from around the world. .
According to United Methodist News Service, a British Methodist relief official reported about Kenya: "The major effects of climate change in the area have been in the form of unprecedented changes in weather conditions in terms of rainfall patterns and occurrence of drought." A Fijian pastor pleaded to the British Methodists: "Please, come help us. … At the moment, people are drowning in the tiny islands of the South Pacific." Meanwhile, local Methodists cited recent high rainfall and flooding in Great Britain as dire signals of climate change.
Sheepishly, some of the British Methodists admitted that challenging weather is hardly a novelty in human history. But they insisted that Global Warming is making everything more severe.
"The world's biggest market failure is climate change," one Methodist layman explained The British have 10 times as many carbon emissions as El Salvador and 100 times as many as Africa, he fretted. "Climate change is the single most important threat to development. We are culpable. We need to bear the cost of dealing with this mess."
A Methodist activist from Ohio, USA, referenced her own country's abuses when she complained: "Poor people have always had a Hurricane Katrina." She penitently confessed to the British Methodists: "In our quest for comfort and convenience, we have created a system that makes it difficult for others." The Rev. Sheryl Anderson, a London-based minister, closed the conference debate by calling on people to see climate change as more than just an environmental issue.
"We have to make right the wrong, to become righteous," Anderson declared. "We have to act collectively, working with the worldwide Methodist people, especially those in the U.S., to combat global warming. And we have to do it now." She was insistent. But the language at the British Methodist Annual was tame compared to earlier warnings.
Last Easter, the then president of the British Methodist Church preached not about the Resurrection but about the ugly threat of Global Warming, with the United States as the chief climate culprit. Referencing the Garden of Eden, the Rev. Tom Stuckey bemoaned that the world had gone from a "a place of cool shade" to a "polluted paradise lost; a savage wilderness of terror, fear and insecurity," over which "hangs the threat of further global warming and ecological disaster," whose "first victims" will again be poor Africans and Asians.
Pastor Stuckey described the four horseman of the apocalypse in stark political terms. The white horse is "imperialism - some would say American globalization," the fiery red horse is "military invasion and terrorist atrocity" the black horse is plague, and the pale horse is "carbon emissions that will blot out the light of the sun."
It was a scary picture, as Stuckey described it. "The Bush Administration still chooses to close its eyes to this threat," he bewailed. "From a right-wing Christian political perspective, it seems the American Administration prefers Apocalypse to Genesis."
Stuckey urged his fellow British Methodists to "join God's team of spiritual gardeners, committed to not only to climate change but also to changing the human will and heart so that we can move from Apocalypse to Genesis.'
The British Methodists have started their own "Operation Noah" to stave off Global Warming. Their churches may be emptying, but at least they might be saved from the apocalyptic white horse of American imperialism and the pale horse of carbon emissions.
Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.