Dr. Frank S. Page
President, Southern Baptist Convention
and
Mr. Richard Land
SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
and
Pastor Jonathan Merritt
Cross Pointe Church

Brothers in Christ:

As a member in good standing of the Southern Baptist Church and a Christian who has through much prayer and Bible study come to acknowledge God’s desire that the church take seriously her role in stewardship of creation, I have been closely following the release of A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change and the Southern Baptist Convention’s reaction to it.

First let me say I respect the SBC’s right as an organization to issue public policy statements on the environment and climate change, even when these statements don’t always reflect my personal views. I appreciate many of the previous resolutions passed by the SBC urging stewardship of the earth’s resources while caring for the poor in developing countries.

I also appreciate that both the SBC and Pastor Merritt have formally stated our need as Baptists to fully engage in many areas of Christian environmental stewardship. Certainly these are tasks about which, through the power of Christ, God expects us all to be dilligent until His return.

I am concerned, however, that in the haste to distance the SBC from A Southern Baptist Declaration or the signers of their Declaration to distance themselves from the SBC you both are misrepresenting me and thousands of other Southern Baptists in two important areas.

First, there is the needless appearance of deep division. The messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in San Antonio, Texas, June 12-13, 2007, urged Southern Baptists to

"proceed cautiously in the human-induced global warming debate in light of conflicting scientific research."

"A Southern Baptist Declaration" says

We recognize that Christians are not united around either the scientific explanations for global warming or policies designed to slow it down…this is an issue where Christians may find themselves in justified disagreement about both the problem and its solutions. Yet, even in the absence of perfect knowledge or unanimity, we have to make informed decisions about the future.

Both resolutions suggest Southern Baptists move forward on ecology while respecting that there will inevitably be disagreement on the nature and extent of climate change.

The remedy for this should be obvious. We should not be afraid of tackling any social issue, including environmnental ones. And we must press forward and commit to praying for each other and for wisdom and unity within the body of Christ. This public and rather unseemly display is a foothold that the enemy of the church is happy to exploit. To that end I hope that you [and all those reading this letter. db] will join me in prayer this week, humbled by the fact that only God ultimately controls the affairs of His Creation.

Much more importantly, none of you seem concerned about the tragedy of missing our God-given opportunity here under the Great Commission. An editorial to the Tuscaloosa News by a Mr. James W. Anderson illustrates my point:

I urge the leadership of our Southern Baptist Convention to be about serving our member churches, evangelism and bringing lost souls to Christ. To those currently choosing to carry the liberal environmental torches, perhaps you should consider leaving the organization and entering politics. The two do not mix — at all!

Don’t let his confusion on the pedigree of the Declaration distract you from the real spiritual disaster. Mr. Anderson sees environmentalism as a hinderance to evangelism rather than an opportunity to establish relationships with, and bring the love of Christ to, vast numbers of God’s children who would never darken the door of a Baptist church.

The fact that he doesn’t apparently know about scriptures referencing God’s heart on ecology, doesn’t understand the role of creation in bringing glory to God, doesn’t see creation care as a mission field, doesn’t view climate change action opponents and proponents both as human beings in need of a Savior, and doesn’t think engaging in challenging environmental issues like climate change provide openings for the Gospel message to our generation is not his failing. Rather, it is a direct reflection on the historic failure of our Southern Baptist leadership and many of those in our pulpits to communicate a Spirit-filled, biblical message on creation care.

Rather than continue this division I urge you, therefor, to return your focus to the Lord of Creation. Join with me to pray for reconciliation, for wise yet diligent action, and for the earnest encouragement of pastors and their congregations to make stewardship of the environment as important a priority as stewardship of their missions budgets and church growth projects.

Thanks for your consideration.

Grace and peace,
Don Bosch

[Don's other habitat is The Evangelical Ecologist]


  • http://www.shamrockcrossing.com Stephen Poates

    I agree with your spirit of reconciliation and walking point together to focus on the spreading of the Gospel. I agree with much of what you said.

    However most of the “division” that has been on display over this is the mind-numbing misinterpretations the media in general has portrayed, not SBC representatives involved in the said initiative. Let’s be very clear, we should simply be going straight to our brothers in Christ and hearing what their intentions are on this and turn off the tube and countless articles that play to this big “division” that the media says is going on. J.Merritt has a blog where you can read about his intentions. The media always eggs on a fight–always looks for a foothold in anything we say. But I do think we have a little life immitating art here. Let’s not fall victim to “oh, but I read somewhere…”. What do Merritt, Page, Land, really say?

    And what does the declaration say? It says we should not forget our first priorities to preach the Gospel, defend the innocent, and protect marriage (read the Preamble). If someone read for the first time your letter and nothing else they would have assumed that this new initiative was somehow superceding the Gospel! How can you say, “Much more importantly, none of you seem concerned about the tragedy of missing our God-given opportunity here under the Great Commission”? Don’t think of me as juvenille, but, what’s that all about? Have you been in a meeting with these guys or saw them in a church service where they said something contrary? How is this “tragedy” being carried out? Because if you base this on what the declaration says it is pretty clear–“but above all, faithful to Jesus Christ our Lord.”, it says. And the following, “To abandon these issues to the secular world is to shirk from our responsibility to be salt and light.” I’m just confused on your statement because I haven’t seen or heard anything that supports it.

    I believe like you that we need to do more to protect our environment. I believe we all inherently know–or atleast we should–that there is a great deal of respect we owe and should care about that God has tasked us with. Let’s just agree to disagree on the particulars of how we do this provided we do not compromise the Gospel and our core values.

    The following is not directed so much at you, Mr. Bosch, but rather other Christians in the SBC…that is, does anyone seriously have any biblically-based differences between the 2007 and current initiatives? If not… “move along, nothing to see here”. Let’s just get busy and relate to our fellow man, to share the Gospel, and honor God while doing it.