The Episcopal Church is putting its foot down on climate change denial.
One of the most powerful women in Christianity, US Episcopal church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, told the Guardian that climate change denial amounts to denying God's gift of knowledge. An oceanographer before being ordained, Bishop Jefferts Schori says she wants to use her influence as the head of a church to influence others to take action to stop climate change.
“I really hope to motivate average Episcopalians to see the severity of this issue, the morality of this issue,” Bishop Jefferts Schori told the Guardian. “Turning the ship in another direction requires the consolidated efforts of many people who are moving in the same direction.”
The church hosted a webcast on Tuesday to encourage church members to lobby their legislators to do more to stop climate change. The webcast also provided suggestions how members could reduce their personal carbon footprint. Jefferts Schori said in her interview with the Guardian that, for many in the developing world, the effects of climate change are already a threat to their survival.
“It is in that sense much like the civil rights movement in this country where we are attending to the rights of all people and the rights of the earth to continue to be a flourishing place,” Jefferts Schori told the Guardian. “It is certainly a moral issue in terms of the impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable around the world already.”
Bishop Jefferts Schori heads a church with just under 2 million members. Having broke with the Church of England in the American Revolution, the US Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion, which, with 80 million members worldwide, is the world's third largest Christian communion after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Pope Francis is expected to release an edict in June or July that will speak to the need for Christians and non-Christians alike to understand the consequences of inaction on climate change.
The New York Times reported that the Pope will meet with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his staff to discuss climate change's impact on the poor, before addressing the UN General Assembly and the US Congress in September.
“Our academics supported the pope’s initiative to influence next year’s crucial decisions,” Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, told Cafod, the Catholic development agency. “The idea is to convene a meeting with leaders of the main religions to make all people aware of the state of our climate and the tragedy of social exclusion.”
A 2009 Pew Research Center poll, "White, mainline Protestants," a category that, for Pew's purposes, includes Episcopalians were the largest Christian congregation who believed global warming was caused by human activity, with 48 percent believing so. The group least willing to accept climate change was white evangelical Protestants, only 34 percent of whom believe in manmade global warming.
The highest percentage of Americans who accept the science of climate change – 58 percent – are religiously unaffiliated
“Episcopalians understand the life of the mind is a gift of God and to deny the best of current knowledge is not using the gifts God has given you,” Jefferts Schori told the Guardian. "I think it is a very blind position. I think it is a refusal to use the best of human knowledge, which is ultimately a gift of God.”