Southern Baptists Save Souls — and the Planet

Several influential Baptist leaders earlier this week signed a ground-breaking document co-written by a father-and-son team. The declaration urged members to do something that until recently wasn't necessarily a core part of being Christian: to make taking care of the environment a part of daily life.

Jonathan Merritt is a 25-year-old seminary student and the son of James Merritt, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. The younger Merritt says he was in a theology lecture when inspiration first struck. "My professor made the statement that when we destroy god's revelations on earth, it's like tearing a page out of the bible," Merritt says. "That really broke me."

The father-and-son team collaborated for more than half a year to write the groundbreaking blueprint. "A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change" is available at Baptistcreationcare.org. The following lines are illustrative of the document's boldness:

Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed. We can do better. To abandon these issues to the secular world is to shirk from our responsibility to be salt and light. The time for timidity regarding God's creation is no more.

"One of the first things we have to do is to admit the problem," Merritt says, referring to a general reluctance on the part of Christians to take up the often politicized matter of environmental protection. Because it emphasizes the scriptural foundations for earth stewardship, or "creation care," Merritt says his declaration should be a compelling call to arms for Christians.

"We don't offer specific policy recommendations," he says. "But we want to get the dialog happening. I think we're doing that."

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