A diverse coalition of religious groups is hoping to create a theological greenhouse effect in a mobilization effort to place environmental issues near the heart of religious life.

Religious leaders—representing evangelical, mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish congregations—met with Vice President Al Gore on October 4 to announce a three-year, $4.5 million project to educate and activate the religious community toward environmental protection. Two years in the making, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment aims to prod congregations to integrate social justice and environmental concerns.

“I believe the mainstream American evangelical community is now ready to proclaim and act upon a biblically based imperative to care for God’s creation,” Robert Seiple, president of World Vision USA, said at the White House meeting.

Many churches already have undertaken recycling, conservation, and clean-up efforts, as well as serving as educational outlets for environmental issues. The new initiative, however, hopes to go much further.

“The challenge before the religious community in America is to make every congregation … truly ‘green’—a center of environmental study and action,” said James Parks Morton, dean of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. “This is their religious duty.”

Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, said the project offers evangelicals a “historic opportunity” for demonstrating how a biblical worldview speaks to ecological problems. “If we fail to do that,” Sider said, “we will have only ourselves to blame if people turn to other religious ideas to nurture their concern for the environment.”

The meeting was not without its tense moments, however. James Malone, former chairman of the ...

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