by Mitch Hescox
On Tuesday, December 13, 2011, The National Associationof Evangelicals released its study paper on climate change and the poor. Loving the Least of These isn't a policy report or even a position paper, but a study document offered as a conversation starter on climate change's impacts on the least of these around the world.
The document authored by Dr. Dorothy Boorse of Gordon College takes climate change from partisan politics and places it squarely where the discussion belongs, Christian discipleship. Climate change isn't about politics or even good science; it's about people, people in the United States and around the world already suffering from our changing climate. Hopefully, the NAE's publication sparks a meaningful dialogue that is free of sound bites. Loving the Least of These portrays the impacts of real people, our Christian brothers and sisters who suffer now as climate change further degrades their lives.
I had a God moment on my way to the study's release. I live in Pennsylvania, and on my way to catch the train to Washington, DC I realized I left my reading glasses on the kitchen table. The train was already pulling away from the station so I had no time to buy new glasses. I stored away my iphone, and resigned myself to fifty minutes of doing nothing instead of reading and replying to the usua lmultitude of morning emails. So instead of busy work, I closed my eyes and prayed. Suddenly, in what, I believe, was pure inspiration, the old hymn, We've A Story to Tell to the Nations, kept filling my thoughts.We've a story to tell to the nations,
Today, while the evangelical church declines in the United States and western world, the 2/3 world represents a great explosion in Christianity continues. Just as Orlando Costas prophesied almost thirty years ago in Christ Outside the Gate, the 2/3 world will teach us about evangelismand. It will also teach us climate change. That's exactly what Loving the Least of These does. By telling the stories of those already impacted, the effects of climate change become real. It's not some political debate, it's real lives being impacted every day. Some studies report that climate will take as many as 300,000 lives this year alone.
It's the same story that evangelicals from Micah Challenge have been telling for years and the Lausanne Movement's Cape Town Commitment shared earlier this year. The story that our Christian brothers and sisters are sharing from around the world is simple" climate change is real and we are affected. Please help us. For more on what evangelical leaders are asking, please watch the video interviews from two African pastors who travelled to the US in Novembe. Here's the video of both of them in front of the U.S. Capitol, one of Rev. Moses Mwale giving an interview of Jim Ball, and one of Rev. Osborne Joda-Mbewa giving an interview with Jim.
Loving the Least of These isn't the final word on understanding climate change's impacts, however it's a good beginning. Use it as a study guide for your local church, a small group, or read it for yourself. Then continue your study with EEN's Bible study "Why Christians Should Care About God's Creation" written by Ed Brown, then for the seminal work on Christian discipleship and climate change move to our Jim Ball's Global Warming and The Risen Lord.
Two years ago, Deborah Fikes from the World Evangelical Alliance spoke in Washington, DC and stated:
The crisis of climate change does not allow evangelicals a non-participatory rolebecause of its impacton our work of promoting peace and helping the poor. Unlikehere in the U.S., there is little controversy about climate change among our alliance members.
They know that it is real and they are grieved as they interpret that their brothers and sisters in Christ, in the U.S. are self-absorbed and lack the spiritual will toconsider altering our lifestyles to help solve a problem that is life threatening to them and willplace billions at increased for violent conflicts.
The way for all God's children to have an abundant life calls us to hear the story from the nations of the world. NAE's Loving the Least of These makes a good start. Let's not deny the realities that face God's creation and truly understand that creation care is a matter of life.The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox is President/C.E.O. of The Evangelical Environmental Network