Protestant Pastors Evenly Split on Global Warming Beliefs

Protestant pastors are split on global warming and whether it is real and man-made, a new survey shows.

LifeWay Research found that 47 percent of Protestants pastors agree with the statement "I believe global warming is real and man-made" while 47 percent do not.

Among pastors in churches affiliated with mainline denominations, 75 percent agree. Notably, fewer (67 percent) pastors who consider themselves mainline say global warming is real and man-made.

Meanwhile, only 32 percent of pastors in evangelical denominations and 41 percent of those who consider themselves evangelical agree with the statement, according to the survey of 1,002 pastors conducted in October 2008.

"Not all pastors who consider themselves mainline serve in churches in denominations that are traditionally considered mainline," said Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research. "Similarly, not all pastors who consider themselves evangelical serve in denominations that are traditionally considered evangelical. Yet these denominational roots provide a strong indication of what a church's pastor believes about global warming."

More specifically, 93 percent of pastors who consider their political ideology liberal or very liberal say global warming is real and man-made compared to 53 percent of those who identify themselves as conservative or very conservative politically.

More Christians have jumped on the climate change bandwagon as they view global warming as a major crisis, but some believe the warnings are exaggerated.

Last year, a group of conservative Christians launched a "We Get It!" campaign that asks Christians to examine the hard evidence and not let their environmental stewardship be based on mere emotions or media hype.

The campaign calls for genuine biblical stewardship and defending the poor, whose needs and even lives are often sacrificed for a cap on CO2 emissions, among other global warming policies.

"As Bible-believing Christians, we must understand that we don't have to choose between caring for people or nature – that in God's wise design, lifting people out of poverty, and helping them fulfill their God-given potential as producers and stewards not only assists the poor, but is the best thing we can do for the environment as well," the campaign states. "We must foresee the devastating impacts that skyrocketing costs for food, energy, and other essential needs will have on the poor, and how they can lock millions of our neighbors in the developing world into generations of grinding poverty, disease, and early death."

Campaign supporters, including Tony Perkins of Family Research Council, Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, and award-winning radio host Janet Parshall, say it isn't about whether they care about the environment but how they care.

In other survey findings, LifeWay Research found that 52 percent of Protestant pastors address environmental issues once a year or less and 25 percent say they address it several times a year. Pastors who consider themselves mainline (53 percent) are more likely to speak on the environment throughout the year than pastors who identify as evangelical (32 percent).

"Protestant pastors are split on the issue of man-made global warming and their views impact their communication," said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. "Mainline clergy answer the question with similar numbers to self-identified Democrats and liberals in surveys of the general public. Evangelical clergy answer the question in similar percents to Republicans and conservatives. At the end of the day, Protestant pastors are as divided as Americans are on the issue of global warming."

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