June 2, 1999

Religious environmental groups

increase during last decade
___(ABP)--So far, the 1990s have been a decade of increased religious environmentalism.
___Religious groups had been showing an interest in addressing environmental problems when 32 Nobel laureate and other scientists wrote "An Open Letter to the Religious Community" in 1991, encouraging them to get involved. "Efforts to safeguard the environment need to be infused with a vision of the sacred," the scientists wrote.
___"That kind of woke some people up," says Daniel Swartz.
___In 1993, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment was born, bringing together the United States Catholic Conference, the Evangelical Environmental Network, globethe National Council of Churches of Christ, and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life.
___Swartz, the associate director of the partnership, says the groups committed themselves to working together for a common goal while remaining true to their own traditions. They wanted to make sure they weren't pasting theological quotes on secular environmentalism but were developing plans from their own traditions, he says.
___ Each group began by developing manuals or resource kits to be distributed to congregations within their faith tradition, and other efforts have developed from there.
___ Evangelicals helped save the Endangered Species Act from extinction in 1996, and Catholics urged legislators on Capitol Hill to remember all of God's children when discussing private-property rights. Jews in Boston are talking about how local hospitals can get rid of their medical waste without burning it and emitting dioxins, and mainline Protestant and Orthodox Christians have studied climate changes and published a Bible study related to those changes.
___Walt Grazer of the U.S. Catholic Conference says he thinks that there still is much to be done to educate people of faith about the environment. "There's no question that this issue is still new to many," he says. But the National Religious Partnership for the Environment has helped religious groups get better organized and helped shine a national spotlight on environmental issues.
___Initial discussions for the next decade have begun, including whether other faith groups, such as Muslims, should be brought into the partnership. The National Religious Partnership for the Environment can be reached through its web site at http://www.nrpe.org/ or by calling 800-200-8858. The web site has links to its member organizations and others engaged in environmental stewardship.

See related stories:
SAVE THE EARTH?: Stewardship of creation finds growing support
How to get involved in caring for creation


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