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Cooling Earth's Climate as a Matter of Faith
NEW YORK, New York, December 24, 2007 (ENS) - World Council of Churches General Secretary Dr. Samuel Kobia is calling concerns about climate change "a matter of faith" and says the Christian faith community must be at the vanguard of the response to global warming.

"I think as Christians we should be the ones to lead the way so that others then can follow because for us it is not just a matter of political or economic or ecological concern it is a matter of faith," Kobia said Thursday in New York.

"We have seen that when we become careless the effect is what we are seeing now with global warming," he said.

An ordained minister in the Methodist Church in his native Kenya, Kobia is in the United States for meetings with heads of churches and other ecumenical leaders, including Church World Service Executive Director and CEO John McCullough.

Church World Service is a member of the Central Committee, the chief governing body of the World Council of Churches, which represents over 560 million Christians around the world.

World Council of Churches General Secretary Dr. Samuel Kobia (Photo © Peter Williams/WCC)

Although the subject of climate change has only recently become a focus of global concern, Kobia said the World Council of Churches, WCC, is not a newcomer to the debate.

"The WCC has had a program around climate change since 1992. We have books on eco-theology. We called the program Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. We talked about the danger the approach to development has to the integrity of creation. Therefore, for us it is not a new idea."

Kobia says he would like to invite the entire Christian community to be involved in the work on climate change.

"It is a gospel imperative for churches to be involved in the work on climate change. It is a gospel imperative because human beings are entrusted with the rest of God's creation," he said. "It is there for us not to plunder and not to dominate, but to care."

The Church World Service is accelerating its own advocacy campaign on climate change, as well as advocacy work with faith-based and other partners in Washington, pressing U.S. policymakers and lawmakers to raise the bar on this country's commitments to combat the crisis.

Along with the National Council of Churches and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Church World Service filed a brief in 2006 supporting the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and 11 other states in the lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for the EPA's failure to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Despite the court's finding against the EPA in April this year, the Bush administration Thursday announced that it will block efforts by California, Maryland, and 15 other states to cut emissions of global warming gases from cars and trucks.

Rev. Sally Bingham with an energy saving compact fluorescent bulb (Photo courtesy The Episcopal Diocese of California)

Across the United States, religious leaders are working to curb climate change.

Rev. Sally Bingham, whose title is "environmental minister" at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, is also president of the Regeneration Project and Interfaith Power and Light.

The Regeneration Project seeks to "deepen the connection between ecology and faith" and the Interfaith Power and Light project is specifically focused on global warming, including how churches can reduce their own electricity bills.

"Ten years ago people thought I was bringing political issues to the pulpit and that I was an environmentalist looking for a platform," Bingham said. "But there has just been an overwhelming shift in that idea and now everybody wants to hear about it. It's been an amazing transformation."

The Interfaith Power and Light effort began in 1998 with Episcopal Power and Light and the support of Grace Cathedral as a unique coalition of Episcopal churches aggregated to purchase renewable energy.

Bingham says, "In 2001, we co-founded California Interfaith Power and Light, which helps people of faith in California to organize and promote positive environmental change around energy and global warming. Nationally, we are working to establish Interfaith Power and Light programs in every state."

On its website, the Regeneration Project encourages Americans to contact their political representatives about climate change, says, "Tell them global warming is a religious issue, that the U.S. must participate in strong and fair international agreements and adopt strong national policy. This is the most important thing you can do right now!"

Catholics have the moral support of Pope Benedict XVI in their efforts to restore a healthy climate. In his World Day of Peace Message for January 1, 2008, the Pope says,

Pope Benedict XVI (Photo courtesy The Vatican)

"The family needs a home, a fit environment in which to develop its proper relationships. For the human family, this home is the Earth, the environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility. We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion."

"One area where there is a particular need to intensify dialogue between nations is that of the stewardship of the Earth's energy resources," said the Pope.

"The technologically advanced countries are facing two pressing needs in this regard: on the one hand, to reassess the high levels of consumption due to the present model of development, and on the other hand to invest sufficient resources in the search for alternative sources of energy and for greater energy efficiency," he said.

"Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow," said the Pope. "It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.

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