Speakers tell British Baptists: fight global warming, poverty

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BLACKPOOL, England (ABP)—British Baptists heard warnings against over-consumption and further degradation of the environment during their annual meeting in Blackpool, Lancashire.

Theologian Elaine Storkey told members of the Baptist Union of Great Britain to reject “false prophets” of consumerism, and renowned climate-change expert Sir John Houghton encouraged listeners to switch to clean energy for the earth’s sake.

Elaine Storkey

Taking Jeremiah 29:11 as her text (“I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope”) Storkey spoke of the effects of global poverty, and she warned against those who suggested that the present levels of consumption in rich countries could be sustained indefinitely.

“Don’t listen to the false prophets; don’t listen to the dreams they dream; don’t listen if they are proclaiming anything but the good news that comes from God,” she said. “False hope is anything that doesn’t have its grounding in the plans and purposes of God.”

No easy answers

Storkey, a prominent British evangelical feminist who also runs a Christian charity, said false prophets are those who “offer easy answers, easy solutions, complacency and self-indulgence.”

She added, “The false prophets have prophesied continual growth and rising consumption. But the earth cannot sustain these levels of consumption and these levels of growth.”

Reflecting on the Israelites’ experience of exile, she reminded listeners that, even as aliens and strangers, they were called to work and pray for the welfare of their nation, to “live in a land that was not their own as if they belonged there.”

“We should live respecting our earthly location, respect its cities and work for their welfare,” Storkey said.

Her theme built on an earlier on-stage interview with Houghton, one of the United Kingdom’s foremost experts on global warming, conducted by the Alistair Brown, who was attending his last British Baptist Union meeting as general director of BMS World Mission, the denomination’s missions agency. Brown is to become president of Northern Baptist Theological Seminary outside Chicago later this year.

Cut energy usage

Although it may cost slightly more, Houghton said, British Baptists could make a powerful statement by signing up for Good Energy. The company supplies electricity from wind, hydroelectric and solar-power generators located all over Britain.

“We simply must cut down our emissions of greenhouse gases, and one thing we can all do is sign up for greener electricity through Good Energy,’ said Houghton, the country’s former chief meteorologist.

“By doing this, it means none of our energy is from fossil fuels. If everyone in this room were to do it, it could make big news.”

Houghton’s call came in a hard-hitting and impassioned presentation on the disastrous effects of global warming.

Using a mixture of slides, clips from the Al Gore film An Inconvenient Truth and an interactive question-and-answer session, Houghton outlined how human activity has led to “unprecedented levels” of climate change.

"Weapon of mass destruction"

“The impact of global warming is such that I have no hesitation in describing it as a ‘weapon of mass destruction,’” he told the audience, referring to a famous quote in a newspaper article he had written on the subject. “I was criticized for writing that, but I have studied climate change for many years—and it was meant to be strong language.”

Houghton explained that the use of fossil fuels over the last 200 years had led to a marked increase in greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. The combined effect of these gases has been to gradually raise the temperature of the earth’s surface.

If it continues at the current rate, by the end of the century there will be between a two- and four-degree rise in temperature—and a corresponding and catastrophic rise in global ocean levels, inundating places like the Netherlands and parts of New York.

But generally, poorer nations will be worse affected, Houghton said.

Moral imperative

He said there was a “moral imperative” for Britons to act, as the average carbon-dioxide emission per person was much higher in the developed world.

“We have become very rich because of all this coal, oil and gas. Initially, we didn’t know the damage, but now we do,” he said. “We have benefited from this, and now we need to share our right to have all these things we have with the poor nations of the world.

“This is a real opportunity for Christians to make a difference.”

Houghton already has exerted a global influence of his own on the subject. One of his talks several years ago directly led to the vice president of governmental affairs of America’s National Association of Evangelicals, Richard Cizik, changing his views on global warming.

In other business, British Baptists installed John Weaver, principal of South Wales Baptist College, as president of the denomination.

They also took up donations toward scholarship fund for the Amsterdam 400 conference, scheduled for next July. The European Baptist Federation is holding a major celebration in Amsterdam marking 400 years since the Baptist movement began there in 1609. The gifts will be used to help participants from Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Compiled from stories by the Baptist Times, the newspaper of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

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