Last year's announcement by 86 evangelical leaders that they had joined the battle against global warming was more than just another church statement destined to gather dust on ecclesial library shelves. The initiative marked a critical turning point in "green cross" politics, and a sign that the church is poised to be a major player in the movement to save the planet.
The secular environmental movement, with significant religious involvement, has steadily advanced since the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 1962 and the launching of Earth Day in 1970. Environmental efforts in the churches coalesced in the early 1990s, sparked by key initiatives in all streams of Christendom.
The Catholic bishops, for example, issued the 1991 statement "Renewing the Earth," which urged efforts "to explore, deepen, and advance the insights of our Catholic tradition and its relation to the environment and other religious perspectives on these matters." In 1993, World Vision, Evangelicals for Social Action, and others launched the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), which later issued the seminal "Evangelical Declaration for the Care of Creation," signed by nearly 500 evangelical leaders. Most mainline denominations issued statements in that period, and in 1993 the National Religious Partnership for the Environment was formed, consisting of the EEN, the U.S. Catholic Conference, the National Council of Churches, and the Coalition of Environment and Jewish Life.