Something called the Southern Baptist Environment & Climate Initiative (SBECI), which is referred to by its website as a "ministry," has issued "A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change."
The initial signatories to this Declaration include, among others, Southeastern Seminary President Daniel Akin, Union University President David Dockery, First Baptist Springdale Arkansas Pastor Ronnie Floyd, Beeson Divinity School President Timothy George, Prestonwood Baptist Pastor Jack Graham, First Baptist Woodstock Georgia Pastor Johnny Hunt, Cross Pointe Pastor James Merritt, and current SBC President Frank Page.
I have intentionally tried to avoid reading what others are saying about this. I did look at the comment stream at SBCOutpost (I even left a comment myself) but other than that I have read no other analyses of this declaration.
I don't think I need to do so. I can predict with what I fear is great accuracy what the reactions will.
Many "conservative" or "fundamentalist" Baptists will accuse the framers of and signatories to this declaration of having somehow "sold out." Such commentators will say that these folks are trying to form some kind of alliance with liberals or that they are trying to cause Southern Baptists to look more respectable in the eyes of mainstream media or that they are giving undue respect to the findings of widely accepted science or that they are trying to take Southern Baptist eyes off the goals of missions and evangelism.
Meanwhile, many "moderate" or "liberal" Baptists will accuse the framers of and signatories to this declaration of being Johnny-come-latelies on the issues of global warming and climate change or of not going nearly far enough in this initial advocacy effort or of only giving lip service to environmental issues.
Also meanwhile, many "rank and file" Baptists will yawn and figure that this really isn't important and really won't matter.
I of course have absolutely no idea what lies in the hearts of the folks who are involved in the SBECI.
I do regret that the initial response of many on both the left and the right is to question those motives. Only time will tell.
I believe, though, that this effort creates an opportunity for dialogue between Baptists of different persuasions on this important issue. Regular readers of On the Jericho Road know that I have been lately advocating for more dialogue between Baptists (and other Christians) of different persuasions. It is time, I maintain, that we quit talking about and at each other and start talking to and with each other.
I therefore propose that a Conference on Baptist Stewardship of the Environment be held as soon as possible. I furthermore propose that it be held at Ridgecrest Conference Center. I furthermore propose that it be co-sponsored by Southeastern Seminary, Southern Seminary, Beeson Divinity School, McAfee School of Theology, Truett Seminary, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, and the Baptist Center for Ethics.
This is a great example of an area in which Baptists of all persuasions should and can be vitally interested.
I say let's strike while the iron is hot and before the planet gets any hotter!