When Blessed Tomorrow Leader, Jonathan Merritt wrote Green Like God, he intended to bridge the schism between the eschatologically grounded climate denial of older generations, and the new face of the Southern Baptist Convention, millennials. His approach represented a shift in the national coalition’s willingness to embrace Bible based climate initiatives, a stark contrast to the efforts of Robert Parham who penned the second book on conservation by a Southern Baptist in 1992 – certainly a man before his time.
Despite his early trial, Perham maintains that, “People in the pews need to hear from their pastors on environmental topics and how stewardship or caring for God’s creation is integrally connected to our active concern for those living in poverty.” With millennial leaders such as Jonathan Merritt representing the new Baptist base, the Convention may be changing its stance on climate change, as seen when countless leaders signed the Southern Baptist Environment & Climate Initiative declaration.
By Brian Kaylor for Baptist News Global
As millennials consider issues of faith and science, environmental issues are among their primary concerns, experts say. Recent polls suggest millennials are concerned about climate change and see environmental public policy actions as a priority.
A lot of planning, praying and, yes, worrying, goes into what millennials — those born in the 1980s and 1990s — think about church and worship.
Some experts on the generation, including some of its own members, say an equal amount of consideration should go into how millennials relate to issues around the environment.
Aaron Weaver, communications manager for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, sees his generation — millennials — changing the prioritization of environmental issues.
“We’ve seen that millennials put a higher priority on environmental issues than previous generations,” he explained. “While studies have shown that millennials tend to eschew the ‘environmentalist’ label and the pejorative nature that term has taken on, we still place a premium on sustainability and how we as individuals and as communities can more responsibly care for creation."
As a graduate student at Baylor University, Weaver studied Baptist positions on environmental issues, with his 2013 doctoral dissertation on “Baptist environmentalisms: A comparison of American Baptist and Southern Baptist attitudes, actions and approaches toward environmental issues.”
Conflicts with End Times theology
“American Baptists preached and practiced an environmentalism that sought strict environmental regulations and was defined by an eco-justice ethic emphasizing the interconnectedness of humans with their environment,” Weaver wrote in his dissertation.