Evangelical Environmental Network CEO, Mitch Hescox, a pastor and former coal worker, knows a thing-or-two about Christian attitudes on climate change. His recent adoption of the term ‘evangelical environmentalist’, coupled with his creation care sentiments, have compelled him to traverse the US, time and time again. By speaking directly with church congregations about depoliticizing the issue in exchange for a more biblically based discourse, he is changing the way we think about our religious participation.
Hescox is truly making the ‘the world his parish’ by urging congregations to enact environmental programs and use climate action as a way to live out the gospel. Hescox’s combination of sustainability and scripture is embodied by his suggestion that people inscribe their Bibles with a personal climate solution, in-lieu of simply talking about change. For Hescox, scripture and creation care are inseparable, and with nearly half of all Evangelicals in agreement, these creation care initiatives seem to be working.
For the past five years, Mitch Hescox has served as president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network. For 18 years before that, he served as a local church pastor. And for 14 years before that, he worked in America's coal industry.
Vocationally speaking, he's undergone quite a transformation from designing equipment to grind coal for use in power plants to his current role raising awareness of faith-based environmental activism. But Hescox is much more concerned with the parts of himself that have stayed the same.
Hescox explained that the common thread throughout his life has been "following Jesus' commandment to care for the least of these" and sharing his faith with others. As his latest job title lets on, he currently lives out those principles by advocating for "creation care," or faith-centered efforts to care for the environment.
"I believe creation care is the greatest cause in the world today," he said. "And it's the easiest way to tell the story of God to new generations of young people."
Hescox is among a growing number of evangelical Christian pastors who are making headway with their followers on the topic of environmental stewardship. A new study (paywall) examining the "Greening of Christianity" thesis among Americans states only evangelical Protestants showed significant growth in environmental concern from 1993 to 2010. Other Christians were relatively unfazed by reports of climate change and high-profile calls from within their denominations to go green.
The key to these counterintuitive results, explained Katharine Wilkinson, author of "Between God and Green: How Evangelicals Are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate Change" is that evangelical leaders like Hescox have found a way to bring religious values into a conversation once dominated by secular, political claims. And in doing so, they've paved the way for other religious leaders to do the same.
"Most of the discourse around climate change is around science and economics and policy. It's not often cloaked in religious terms or even really in values terms," she said. "That, I think, is one of the things that evangelical leaders have done really well. They've reframed it."