- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2001

Environmental activists from churches in 39 states yesterday closed a three-day meeting here to discuss ways to promote ecological policies back home.
The gathering of 350 Protestant and Orthodox church workers at the "Environmental Justice" conference also held a rally on Capitol Hill Tuesday and visited 200 congressional offices, organizers said.
They carried talking points opposing the Bush administrations energy policy and the revision of some environmental regulations.
"We hope to bring a moral voice to environmental issues," said the Rev. Richard Killmer, director of the eco-justice unit of the National Council of Churches, which sponsored the conference.
The group issued an open letter calling for energy conservation and "climate justice," which refers to how industrial nations unfairly cause climate change that affects everyone. The letter was signed by 39 Protestant, Jewish and Orthodox religious leaders and was sent to the White House.
"This is the first energy debate in a generation," the letter said. "We have a moral obligation to choose the safest, cleanest and most sustainable sources of energy to protect and preserve Gods creation."
Proposals in the letter and the talking points for Capitol Hill match the agenda of the top environmental groups. They urge signing of the Kyoto Protocol on pollution, spending on alternative energy, and rejection of nuclear power and oil drilling in natural parks and refuges.
The talking points also urge caps on energy costs in California, funding for mass transportation, curbs on sport utility vehicles, and vigilance on "price gouging" by the oil industry.
During yesterdays closing sessions on the campus of Catholic University, word that Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont might leave the Republican Party drew nearly unanimous cheers.
The sentiments, which reflect the NCCs affinity for the Democratic Party, contrasted with the praise evangelical Hispanic clergy gave President Bush on Tuesday at a meeting here on faith-based welfare initiatives.
The NCCs environmental office, formed in 1983, has held the justice conferences every two years since 1997.
The Rev. Robert Edgar, NCC general secretary, said that conserving and sustaining energy for the poor is "one spoke" in the councils 10-year focus on fighting poverty.
"God is calling us to be stewards of this fragile planet Earth and to whisper to our congregations that, 'The ice is melting," Mr. Edgar, a former seminary president and Democratic lawmaker from Pennsylvania, said in a midday sermon.
Using the Luke text in which Jesus told fishermen in "shallow water" to go into deep water, Mr. Edgar cited predictions that global warming could melt ice caps and raise the sea to disastrous levels.
"Minds are frozen about the environmental degradation," he said, reminding activists that they are a minority for this cause. "None of us is too young or too old to get involved."
In a session yesterday, activists described how churches have done "energy audits," cleaned up pollution, added ecology to Sunday school and urged clergy to give "green sermons."
They also emphasized using Bible references in advocacy because many churchgoers associate environmentalism with New Age beliefs.
"There was some worry about that in the beginning," said Elizabeth Sedin, who started up a committee on the "stewardship of creation" for the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.


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