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RELIGIOUS LEADERS ASK MEETING WITH PRESIDENT BUSH ON ENVIRONMENT

March 30, 2001, NEW YORK CITY – Six senior Christian and Jewish religious leaders have written to President George W. Bush, asking for a meeting with him about his environmental policy, especially around issues of climate change.

"We reach out as senior leaders of major American faith communities eager to discuss with you a challenge of paramount religious significance: the condition of God’s creation at the hands of God’s children, the climate of planet Earth as being altered by the activity of God’s people," they wrote.

"In recent days," they continued, "we have been reading reports of what the administration is not prepared to do to address climate change. We are eager to learn what our government will enact here: in a credible, binding program to honor international commitments, successfully prevent destructive impacts on humankind and habitat, and embody equity." The full text of their letter follows.

March 29, 2001

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We reach out as senior leaders of major American faith communities eager to discuss with you a challenge of paramount religious significance: the condition of God's creation at the hands of God's children, the climate of planet Earth as being altered by the activity of the Earth's people.

Many of us have carefully followed the inquiry into climate change and global warming. While we interact with them regularly, we are not scientists, policy-makers, leaders within the economic sector, or architects of global treaties. We do not comment on complex data or technological responses. Nor do we wish to encourage narrow partisanship about an issue which so clearly affects the well-being of all humankind.

We believe there is a point, however, at which scientific consensus is sufficiently established to require consideration of long-standing religious and moral principles of prudence and precaution. If credible evidence exists to indicate our present course could threaten the quality of life for God's creation and God's children, this becomes an issue of paramount moral concern.

We are persuaded that this point of prudence is now upon us. Projected impacts of global warming on the most poor and vulnerable are ethically unacceptable. Domestic and international action is urgently required. The United States has a moral responsibility to lead the world's nations and to serve its people. In recent days, we have been reading reports of what the administration is not prepared to do to address climate change. We are eager to learn what our government will enact here: in a credible, binding program to honor international commitments, successfully prevent destructive impacts on humankind and habitat, and embody equity.

Our scriptures are plain about the religious dimension of this challenge. When it is all creation on Earth that is being affected, we freshly appreciate the principle that, "The Earth is the Lord's." (Ps.24:1) Our climate and seasons are God's handicraft, "Yours is the day. Yours is also the night. You made summer and winter." (Ps. 74:16-17) All life is embraced by God's covenant and with particular instructions regarding our children and children's children. "This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations." (Gen. 9:12)

Because human purpose in the greater web of life is a central issue here, this inquiry is expanding beyond the laboratories of science and the halls of diplomacy to the pulpits and pews of the American heartland. We believe you should be aware that many of our denominations have passed resolutions on climate change and that local activity is growing in churches and synagogues across a broad spectrum of religious life. We can confirm what EPA Administrator Whitman reported to you on March 6th: "For the first time, the world's religious communities have started to engage in the issue." And while there are diverse perspectives on policy, many still evolving, it is our view that this activity will grow exponentially, from genuine religious and moral conviction.

We in the faith community are in a process of open dialogue and inquiry here. We are heartened by your early commitment to civil, moderate, bipartisan dialogue and, particularly, by your willingness to hear the voice of the faith community. We hope you will follow this path on the issue of climate change. We are eager to meet with you for further reflection, perhaps in a small gathering in June.

Meanwhile, we believe an historic challenge is before us all here, foreseen by our scriptures, and freshly vivid in these signs of the times, "I have set before you life or death, blessings or curse. Choose life, therefore, that you and your descendants may live." (Dt. 30:19)

Signatories:

Ismar Schorsch
Chancellor, Jewish Theological Seminary

Dr. Bob Edgar
General Secretary
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

The Reverend Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk
Presbyterian Church (USA)

Bishop Melvin G. Talbert
Senior Ecumenical Officer, United Methodist Church

The Reverend Richard L. Hamm
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Bishop McKinley Young
Bishop of the Tenth Episcopal District
African Methodist Episcopal Church

cc: Christine T. Whitman, Paul O’Neal, Colin Powell

-end-

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