What Cizik's Resignation Means for Creation Care
Conservative evangelicals who saw environmentalism as alarmism welcomed Richard Cizik's resignation as the National Association of Evangelicals' Washington lobbyist last week.
But evangelicals and scientists who had been working on "creation care" for several years saw it as a blow to their efforts.
More than 50 evangelicals — including several environmental advocates — sent a letter to the NAE President Leith Anderson this morning, signaling their support for Cizik's efforts and urging the organization to "carry out Richard's vision of a broad Christian moral agenda."
Those who signed the letter included presidents of organizations, professors, pastors, and authors, such as Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, Calvin DeWitt, professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin, and Lynne Hybels, author of Nice Girls Don't Change the World and wife of Bill Hybels, who is senior pastor of Willow Creek.
One of the letter's signers, Ken Wilson, senior pastor at the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor, said Cizik pioneered a dialogue between evangelicals and scientists, convincing pastors like himself to preach more about the environment.
"Cizik's resignation can be a real stumbling block to people of goodwill for people who saw the evangelical community as good news for the environment," Wilson said. "It will certainly alienate those outside of the faith who sees it as a narrow groupthink."
Calvin Beisner, spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, said that Cizik did not fairly represent evangelicals when he argued that global warming was manmade. "Many evangelicals are concerned that trying to fight global warming would have serious economic harmful effects," he said.
A 2006 survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows that 70 percent of evangelicals said that there is solid evidence that the earth is getting warmer; 37 percent of evangelicals said it was a result of human activity, 27 percent said it was a result of natural causes, and 6 percent were unsure.
Earlier this year, 58 percent of evangelicals said they believe that there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades, a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press suggests. Fifty-nine percent of evangelicals consider global warming a very serious or somewhat serious problem while 37 percent of evangelicals consider it not too serious or not a problem.
Bill Anderson, an economics professor at Frostburg State University, welcomed Cizik's resignation.
"There's still a reluctance within the mainstream of evangelicalism to embrace everything the environmentalists have to sell," said Anderson, who is a member of Cornwall Alliance's board of advisors. "People will pull stewardship as a trump card, but they don't have a mechanism for how to be stewards."
Anderson said in an earlier interview that the NAE will still support creation care, but that Cizik was speaking as an individual on causes of global warming.
"NAE affirms that God is the Creator of our world and that the Bible calls us on to be good and strong stewards of the creation God has entrusted to us," Anderson said today.
Cizik declined to speak to Christianity Today.
Cizik resigned from the NAE last week after he said on National Public Radio that he is shifting his position on civil unions for same-sex couples. "In other words, I would willingly say that I believe in civil unions," he said. "I don't officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition, I don't think."