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1999 NCC News Archives

Interfaith Global Warming Campaign Initiated in Four States
Michigan Conference June 14-15 Will Be First Event in Year-long Initiative

June 10, 1999, NEW YORK --- A year-long, interfaith campaign designed to develop support for international treaties like the Kyoto Protocol and to help people of faith see global warming as a religious issue is now underway in four new states – Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Iowa.

"Momentum is building among people of faith to proclaim global warming as a religious issue," said the Rev. Richard Killmer, Environmental Justice Director for the National Council of Churches (NCC), which is sponsoring the initiative through its Eco-Justice Working Group. "In this campaign, religious leaders and laypeople will begin addressing the global warming issue with their local congregations, government and media."

"We've already tested such a campaign in Ohio and achieved success," he explained. "Members of The Ohio Interfaith Global Warming Campaign, organized through the Ohio Council of Churches, testified in the Ohio state legislature against a bill calling upon members of the U.S. Congress from Ohio to vote against the Kyoto Protocol," Rev. Killmer said. "By expressing why people of faith care about this issue, they ended up being the strongest voice in support of Kyoto."

"We are excited to see the initiative move to four other challenging states," Rev. Killmer said. "The four states have been chosen for specific reasons having to do with their political and industrial contexts. For example, Michigan is the seat of the automobile industry while Iowa has the earliest caucuses."

"In these four states, industries are lobbying heavily against the Kyoto Protocol," Rev. Killmer explained. "Yet our faith tells us it is both about survival for God's creation and about justice for the most vulnerable among God's people. We are already seeing the effects of global warming and they will only worsen."

The initiative will be carried out through interfaith agencies in Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Iowa that will fuel extensive educational, political and media strategies including:

Additionally, each state will hold a training event to provide assistance in working with congregations, media and public officials. "Global Warming and God's People: The Michigan Interfaith Global Warming Conference," to be held at the St. Francis Retreat Center in Dewitt, Mich. on June 14 and 15, is the first of these events.

The Michigan event will bring together at least 60 people from a wide range of Protestant and Orthodox communions as well as Roman Catholic and Jewish representatives. "We are encouraging participants, by their coming, to make a certain commitment to this campaign over the next year," said Kim Winchell, a member of Zion Lutheran Church in Freeland, Mich., who is coordinating the Michigan campaign. "It is a challenge here in Michigan since our governor is already on record as opposing the Kyoto treaty for being 'job killing.' As people of faith, we care about protecting both workers and the environment. We will present that viewpoint sincerely and with conviction. If we can succeed here, we can succeed anywhere."

At the June 14-15 event, speakers from different perspectives, including an economist, theologian and scientist, will speak about global warming. Training sessions on communications and media, educating in congregations and with church governments, and influencing state and federal representatives will be held.

The four-state effort is the latest development in an interfaith global warming strategy that was initiated by the NCC in August 1998 and included letters to President Clinton and U.S. senators urging support of the Kyoto Protocol; a nine-state organizing effort and the original Midwest Interfaith Climate Change conference held in Columbus, Ohio.

The NCC is one of the partners in the National Religious Partnership for the Environment along with the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, the U.S. Catholic Conference and the Evangelical Environmental Network.

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