WASHINGTON – Before heading to Capitol Hill on Thursday to talk to their U.S. representatives, evangelical leaders pressing for climate change legislation affirmed that they will always trace their advocacy back to the Gospel.
"Creation Care" is the Gospel put into practice, contend representatives of the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI)'s 111 signatories at a gathering on Thursday. Through caring for the environment, Christians can show non-believers God's love for the things He has made.
"There is no worry with us that we will forget how to preach the Gospel somehow," said the Rev. Jim Ball, the executive director of the Evangelical Environmental Network and the ECI spokesman.
"No, we are about preaching the Gospel and part of the Gospel is the good news to all of God's creation – that we are here to love our neighbors and be a steward in God's creation. That is part of the Good News. So we are all about preaching the Gospel – the whole Gospel."
The leaders' vow to commit to the Gospel comes amid growing criticism against some churches for focusing more on saving the earth than saving souls.
One such critic, Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., said he found it "troubling" that many churches and denominations have, in essence, replaced theology with ecology.
"Christians do bear a responsibility to be good stewards of the earth," acknowledged Mohler, who is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
However, "[t]he church of Jesus Christ bears the responsibility to be the steward of the Gospel above all other concerns," he emphasized in a column this month.
ECI speakers on Thursday echoed the theologian's priority of keeping the focus on the Gospel and understanding earth care through the lens of the Gospel.
"I'm a committed evangelical so I am called to love the things that my Savior loves, and to care for the things that my Creator cares for," said Scott Rodin, president of the Christian Stewardship Association. "The godly care of His creation is a profoundly Christian issue."
As support, ECI held up a new poll released Thursday by Ellison Research which found that 84 percent of evangelicals support legislation to reduce global warming pollution levels. The poll also found that 54 percent of evangelicals are more likely to support a candidate that works on the issue.
"Our community recognizes we are supposed to be good stewards; we are suppose to care about issues such as climate change…. There is no conflict between preaching the Gospel and living out the Gospel," said ECI's Ball.
"I am pro-life, before birth and after birth," commented Dr. David Clark, president of Palm Beach Atlantic and the former CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters. "I think we should protect unborn life in any way we can. But also once they're here we have to give quality life for our children. So I'm really concerned about that – that we be truly pro-life."
Following the forum, evangelical leaders met with their U.S. representatives on Capitol Hill to press their congressman to enact a "prudent and comprehensive climate legislation."