Southern Baptists note climate change — will McCain benefit?
DALLAS – Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders on Monday shook up their flock by issuing their strongest statement to date on the potential perils of climate change and the need to take action on the issue.
The statement, which was signed by SBC President Frank Page, past presidents and other church leaders, was short on specifics but represents a significant departure from the group’s past pronouncements on the issue, which have urged caution and not much else.
Monday’s statement by some of the leaders of the 16 million-member SBC — America’s largest Protestant Church and one of its most conservative — said such caution could be taken as “uncaring, reckless and ill-informed.”
If the membership at large accepts the document, the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee John McCain could stand to gain as he has broken ranks with much of his party by highlighting the issue of global warming and talking about “common sense” ways to limit carbon emissions, such as promoting advanced energy technologies.
Having the SBC on the side on climate change could give McCain some needed traction with conservative evangelicals who have not warmed to him because of his failure to adopt their strident positions on a range of social issues from gay marriage to stem-cell research.
The SBC statement also is another step in closing the divisions between the old culture warriors of the religious right and the so-called “evangelical center,” which sees a broader Biblical agenda that includes issues such as combating poverty and environmental degradation.
The statement was not entirely unexpected since many conservative evangelicals are known for their passion for the outdoors. A comprehensive nationwide survey in 2006 of licensed hunters and anglers commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation found that half of those polled identified themselves as evangelical Christian.
Hunters and anglers often are the first to note changes in the climate or environment.
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-Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (SBC President Dr. Frank Page, second from left, meets with President Bush in the White House’s Oval Office in 2006 with Dr. Morris Chapman, left, president of the SBC Executive Committee, and Chapman’s wife, Dayle, right.