Last week in Sandy Cove, Maryland, at the headwaters of Chesapeake Bay, a group of evangelical leaders met to affirm our responsibility to care for God's creation. The gathering—sponsored by Christianity Today, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Evangelical Environmental Network—included scholars, activists, denominational leaders, pastors, journalists, and representatives of relief organizations. Among the keynote speakers were Howard Snyder of Asbury Seminary, who called for a robust theology of creation; Sir John Houghton, one of world's foremost authorities on climate change, who gave a state-of-the-art report on global warming; and Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation, who told how his boyhood experience of both natural beauty and environmental destruction shaped his life's work.

What gives this meeting special significance is a largely unnoticed but profound shift in evangelical attitudes toward environmental concerns. For a long time, the rank and file of evangelicals perceived such concerns as part of a package deal—as if to acknowledge the reality of air pollution, say, committed you to embrace socialism, New Age pantheism, and Birkenstocks. The apocalyptic rhetoric of many environmentalists fueled this misperception.

But something has changed. Gradually, often reluctantly, many evangelicals have begun to recognize that there is a middle ground between laissez-faire capitalism and Earth First! At the same time, many environmentalists have begun to see the power of market-based incentives.

Not that such incentives offer a magic bullet. But they do point to a hopeful convergence, to the prospect for consensus on urgent matters even as disagreement persists on many ...

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