29 July 2001

World Methodist Conference calls President Bush to global warming summit with US bishops

The World Methodist Conference has called on President George W Bush to meet with US Methodist bishops to diffuse concerns over the American leader's stance on global warming.

The US bishops have called for talks with President Bush, himself a United Methodist Church member. They are yet to have received a positive reply from the White House agreeing to a summit meeting on how the US can tackle global warming.

Now the bishops' efforts to push global warming higher in the political agenda has been endorsed by fellow Methodist leaders from across the world. Meeting in England this week, Methodist leaders have backed the outcome of the recent climate protection summit in Bonn that reached an agreement to save the Kyoto Protocol. The agreement, backed by every major country except the US, sets in motion efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.

The World Methodist Council, meeting in Brighton, this weekend passed a resolution calling on President Bush to "re-engage with the Kyoto process" and talk with the US Bishops on how the US government and people can respond to the issue of global warming.

But the council stopped short of directly criticising Mr Bush amidst concerns that some Methodists were unwilling to take a lead in changing their own links with the business world.

More conservative US delegates stopped a more strongly worded resolution calling for the largest nations including the US to take an urgent lead in reducing industrial emissions. Objections centred on a plan to commit the Methodist Church only to invest in companies practising ethical environmental policies.

The resolution passed by the Council said that the Kyoto Protocol, "whilst only modest in its proposals to counter global warming, is the only widely supported formal framework currently available for dealing with global warming". Current practices in energy generation, industrial processes and transport pollute the atmosphere in a way which "contribute greatly to global warming and climate change".

Supporters of the resolution, tabled by British Methodist Cathy Bird, included the President of the British Methodist Conference, Rev Christina Le Moignan, and Putney MP Tony Coleman. They agreed that failure to stabilise and reduce emissions would have enormous consequences, especially for poorest and geographically low-lying countries.

Earlier in their conference, World Methodist leaders heard leading climate change expert Sir John Houghton declare that "not caring for the earth is a sin".

Sir John, Co-chairman of the UN Assessment of Global Warming and Climate Change, said that "the Christian message is about the redemption of the whole of creation not just the human part of it". He suggested that historical Christian reluctance to engage in environmental issues is down to a misinterpretation of the word 'dominion' in Genesis 1:28 and Christians thinking that they can do what they like with the earth.

"If we are to have dominion over the earth, we are to be its servants," he said, going on to call for a better balance between the spiritual and the material, and a renewed effort to co-operate on environmental matters with those of different or no theological views "because we all share the same earth".

The 18th World Methodist Conference meets from Thursday 26 July to Tuesday 31 July in  Brighton, England

Further information on the World Methodist Conference

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