Religious environmental concern is not an entirely recent development. A 1954 resolution on Natural Resources by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) declared:
Great natural resources have been entrusted to our nation by Almighty God. We call upon the Christian conscience to recognize that our stewardship of the earth and water involves both a land-use program which recognizes the interdependence of soil, water and man and the development of a responsible public policy which will resist the exploitation of land, water, and other natural resources, including forests, for selfish purposes and maintain intelligent conservation for the sustenance of all living creatures through future generations.
In the decades following, the National Council of Churches of Christ and its member communions have issued many official statements on environmental degradation in general, and on energy, toxic waste, consumption, agriculture, climate change, biotechnology, and other issues in particular. Orthodox Church leaders, too, have strongly affirmed that the fate of the planet is a legitimate and necessary Christian concern.
Careful study, reflection, consultation and discussion go into these documents. Drafts of denominational statements may be revised in light of feedback from church members. Usually the statements are adopted by a majority vote of official delegates to national church conventions.
What do such statements accomplish? Sometimes, they commit a church body to meet certain goals, carry out certain programs, or adopt a policy position. More fundamentally, they direct members’ attention to environmental protection as a religious responsibility. On the basis of longstanding ethical and theological teachings, they offer guidelines for caring for creation and urge Christians to counter threats to ecological integrity and human well-being.
Selected Church Statements
- American Baptist Churches - Resolution on Clear Air (1990), Resolution on Environmental Concerns (1988), Resolution on Hazardous, Toxic and Radioactive Waste (1992), Resolution on Global Warming-Revised (2007), Resolution on Indiviudal LIfestyle for Ecological Responsibility (1990), Policy Statement on Ecology (2007), Policy Statement on Energy (2007)
- The Black Church — Declaration on Environmental and Economic Justice (1993)
- Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) — “Resolution Concerning an Ecologically Responsible Lifestyle” (1983), Resolution on Global Warming (1999), A Resolution on Climate Change (2007), Statement on Climate Change (2009)
- Church of the Brethren — “Creation: Called to Care” (1991), Simple Life Statement (1996), Resolution on Recycled Paper (1992), Resolution on Global Warming and Atmospheric Degradation (1991), Resolution on Ozone Depletion (1992), Resolution on Clear Air (2000), Resolution on Global Warming (2001), Climate Change and Christian Witness (2001)
- Episcopal Church — "Clean Air and Environmental Protection (1989)", “Implement 1988 Lambeth Resolution No. 040 on the Environment” (1991) and “Affirm Environmental Responsibility and Establish an Environmental Stewardship Team” (1991), Environmental Racism (2000), Global Warming (2001), Conservation-Based Energy Legislation (2002), Reduce Use of Toxic Chemicals (2003), Stewardship of Water (2003), Declaration on Sustainable Development (2003), Water Policy (2003)
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice” (1993)
- Friends United Meeting — “Care for God's Creation” (PDF)
- Moravian Church Northern Province — “Statement on Environment” (1990)
- National Council of Churches
- “Christian Concern and Responsibility for Economic Life in a Rapidly Changing Technological Society” (1966)
- “Consumer Rights and Corporate Responsibility” (1972)
- “Ethical Implications of Energy Production and Use” (1979)
- Resolution on Energy Policy Statement (1978)
- Resolution LIfestyle Simplification of Government Board (1980)
- Resolution on Support of Interreligious Program on Religion and Energy in the 80s (1980)
- Acid Rain (1984)
- Toxic Pollution in the USA (1986)
- Resolution on Paper Use (1997)
- God's Earth is Sacred: An Open Letter to Church and Society in the United States (2004)
- Resolution on Global Warming (2006)
- Resolution on Environmental Health (2009)
- Orthodox Churches
- Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios — “Message on the Day of the Protection of the Environment” (Sept. 1, 1989)
- Joint Message of the Orthodox Primates (September 26, 1995)
- Archbishop Demetrios (Primate, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America) — “Encyclical for the Beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year 2002” (September 1)
- Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios — “Protocol No. 756” (September 1, 2002)
- Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
- Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — “Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice” (1990), Reaffirm Call to Restore the Creation (1993), Hazardous Waste, Race, and the Environment (1995), Churchwide Stewardship of Resources (2000), On Cleaning Up Power Plant Pollution (2002)
- Reformed Church of America — “Care for the Earth: Theology and Practice” (1982), Climate Change (1993), Toxic Dumps and Minority Communities (1994), RCA Position on the Environment (1994), Climate Change (1998)
- United Church of Christ — “Perspective on Christian Life Style and Ecology” (1975), Environment, Solid Waste and Ecologically Sound Lifestyle (1989), Resolution on Global Warming (1999), Global Warming (1999), Climate Change (2007)
- United Methodist Church
- “Environmental Justice for a Sustainable Future,” (1992)
- “Our Social Principles: I. The Natural World.” (n.d.)
- Environmental Racism (1992)
- God's Creation and the Church (1996)
- Cease Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining (2000)
- God's Renewed Creation: A Call to Hope and Action (2010)
Find more environmental statements from member churches of the National Council of Churches.
Find more information on Eastern Orthodox Christian ethical and religious teachings relating to the environment.
Find more information on mainline Protestant ethical and religious teachings relating to the environment.
Explore mainline Protestant denominations’ perspectives on specific areas of environmental concern.