It’s been five years since Northland Church Senior Pastor Joel Hunter and 85 other church leaders signed “Climate Change,” a statement calling for the Church to focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy and low-carbon emitting technologies to slow global warming. Five months later, in the summer of 2006, another group of leaders in the church led by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, countered with its own document and philosophy on global warming. “A Call to Truth, Prudence and Protection of the Poor” asserts that simply cutting back emissions will only devastate the world’s poor; it offers its own alternative call to action.
Since then, newspapers nationwide, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, have reported on the debate and polarity of responses within the church.
But whatever side of the issue they land on, churches around the country are finding that taking seriously the issue of creation care offers an opportunity to both follow Scripture’s mandate to keep the earth (Gen. 2:15) and forge a connection with the unchurched in their community.
In Golden Valley, Minn., caring for God’s creation at Valley Community Presbyterian means buying energy from local wind energy farms, using energy-efficient light bulbs, attaining professional energy audits and reinforcing the building’s insulation. But it also means watching a movie: The 500-member church hosted a screening of Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, and some 80 people attended, 20 of whom were not from the church.
“This is a way for our church to be relevant to what’s happening in society today,” says Roger Michael, a Valley Community member who has spearheaded the church’s environmental initiatives for the past 20 years. He believes showing the film effectively communicated the data and predictions regarding climate change, and sent a clear message to the community that the church cares about the environment—a popular sentiment in Minnesota. It is one of only 15 states setting renewable energy goals for utilities to generate a percentage of their power from sources such as windmills and solar power.
Despite some initial opposition from Valley Community’s members who disagree with Gore’s politics, attendees left with a changed perspective on global warming, says Michael. “Those who were on the edge and undecided left anxious to do something,” he reports.
The church will continue to “go green,” installing energy conservation lighting that turns on only with motion sensors, and educating members on how to be careful with their use of earth’s resources.
“We all live on this planet and we need to preserve it for future generations,” Michael says. “We feel commissioned by religious belief that we are to take care of the planet, and not destroy it.”