Global Baptists are acutely aware of the reality of global warming and are determined to act.
The BWA resolution underscored both offsetting and reducing its carbon footprint. It also prioritized the need to bring forth an equitable plan, Parham writes. (Photo: Yutaka Takarada)
At the annual gathering of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) in Santiago, Chile, the largest network of worldwide Baptist leaders adopted a resolution that reaffirmed earlier climate change resolutions adopted in 2008 and 2009.
The general council "laments the lack of progress toward a global consensus on the urgent need to reduce human contribution to climate change that is having a dramatic impact on God's creation," read the resolution.
It said, "This lack of progress is motivated in part by national and corporate greed, and individual preference for unsustainable livelihoods; and the world's poor are most affected by climate change and are least able to adapt."
While the resolution called on governments, multinational corporations, churches, Baptist bodies and individuals to take action, the most substantive part of the resolution focused on what the BWA itself should do.
The resolution encouraged two commissions of the BWA – Christian Ethics and Social and Environmental Justice – "to work together to develop an equitable plan to offset the carbon footprint of the Annual Gathering and to recommend ways to reduce the carbon footprint of all Baptist World Alliance business meetings."
The carbon footprint is an environmental metaphor for the imprint, the impact, of human activity that results in greenhouse pollution. Greenhouse pollution comes from carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as other gases that cause the earth to warm.
When some 300 Baptists fly round-trip to the meeting in Santiago, they create a carbon footprint.
For example, my round-trip air travel from Nashville, Tenn., connecting through Dallas to Santiago contributed 2.97 metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to the Carbon Footprint Calculator.
One option to offset my contribution to global warming would be to donate $43.46 to reforestation projects in Kenya. Such projects offset carbon dioxide pollution while reducing poverty and protecting wildlife.
The BWA resolution underscored both offsetting and reducing its carbon footprint.
It also prioritized the need to bring forth an equitable plan, by which is meant a plan that recognizes the income disparity between different members of the Baptist family.
Those of us who are more affluent would be expected to contribute more to offset the group's pollution than those from less affluent countries.
Before the resolution was presented to the body, some discussion was held around the idea that carbon offsets should be channeled through Baptist World Aid and its other partner organizations in such a way that the needs of the poor would be met.
Carbon offsets may be a new idea for many Baptists, but some Baptists have been addressing the issue for some time.
BMS World Mission, the world's oldest Baptist missionary-sending organization, began offsetting carbon emissions from air travel for mission trips several years ago.
BMS and the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) encouraged Baptists in 2010 to offset the carbon footprint from their vacation travel by using Climate Stewards.
Expressing his disappointment with the recent U.N. conference on sustainable development – Rio+20 Earth Summit – Jonathan Edwards, general secretary of the BUGB, wrote last month, "I believe that churches should not only call on governments to live more sustainably, but set an example in how this can be done through reducing our carbon footprints."
The carbon footprint is a phrase that will gain traction among goodwill Baptists as we seek ways to be faithful to "the moral imperative to love one's neighbor, including future generations, by caring for God's creation," as the BWA resolution said.
I confessed in a presentation to the Social and Environmental Justice Commission that when my book, "Loving Neighbors Across Time: A Christian Guide to Protecting the Earth," appeared in late 1991, it had only one page on global warming.
Little did I know then that climate change would emerge as a premier environmental issue, I said, before showing an edited version of Al Gore's new slide show, "24 Hours of Reality."
The climate change is reality – we are experiencing it with extreme weather events.
Two days before I left for the BWA gathering, Nashville set an all-time heat record of 109 degrees. The day I left, my connecting flight was changed because American Airlines was unable, due to heat, to cool its aircraft, which meant a delay in the departing flight.
The day I returned, I discovered that a number of Dallas-Fort Worth flights had been delayed because of extreme weather events across the country. After arriving home, the city had another extreme weather event – an intense rainstorm.
Let's be very clear: Science tells us the climate is changing.
Let's be very clear: About the only climate-change deniers left are the theological fundamentalists who are joined at the hip with those who profit from big oil and dirty coal.
Let's be very clear: Christians have a moral responsibility to care for the earth.
The BWA took a big step forward last week with its carbon footprint resolution.
The BWA resolution provides an opportunity for goodwill Baptists to walk their talk – and to model to others how we offset and reduce our carbon pollution.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.
Watch the video below featuring Rod Benson, Australian Baptist ethicist and expert on creation care, talking about climate change.