Query on Climate Change Is Returned, Conference Declares the Church Is Not of One Mind on the Issue

Photo by Glenn Riegel
Nate Hosler of the Office of Public Witness presents the response to the query on guidance for responding to the changing of the earth’s climate. The response was ultimately not adopted and the query was returned.

The response to the query on Guidance for Responding to the Changing of Earth’s Climate was defeated in a close vote, and the query was returned to the district and congregation where it originated. The response had been formulated by staff of the Office of Public Witness working with a study committee appointed by that office.

This query originally was adopted by the 2011 Annual Conference and referred to the Advocacy Office of the Global Mission Partnerships–now the Office of Public Witness–for a response. In 2012, the Conference received a report from the working group formed by the Advocacy Office an additional time to prepare a thorough answer was granted.

By 2013, a congregational study resource was developed and additional feedback was being collected from those using it. The Annual Conference received an interim report and granted another year to revise the study resource and prepare a statement on climate change to present to the 2014 Annual Conference for adoption.

Photo by Glenn Riegel
Timekeeper Stafford Frederick raises a yellow paddle to signal that a speaker’s time is nearly up. As it became clear Saturday that the Conference would not be able to deal with all the business in the time still available, the Conference suspended rules in order to shorten a speaker’s time at the microphone.

On the business floor during this Annual Conference, much debate was heard, both for and against the statement. Some of those who spoke to the document doubted the validity of scientific conclusions on climate change, or expressed the opinion that global warming is not caused by human activity. Others said solutions such as restricting use of fossil fuels are harmful to those who earn their living through the coal and oil industries, and may harm the poor who cannot afford more expensive forms of energy. Other speakers were concerned about the church calling for support for political legislation for this kind of issue.

On the other side of the debate, a number of speakers supported the scientific consensus on climate change and expressed concerns about the detrimental effects of global warming on the worldwide human population, saying that it will inevitably lead to starvation and loss of land in poorer regions of the globe as sea levels rise. Speaking as a scientist herself, one speaker said that caring for the earth is a faith issue and biblical mandate.

An amendment that would have added fossil fuel production to the list of Social Responsible Investing concerns for the denomination was turned down by the delegates.

Photo by Glenn Riegel
Delegate attempts an amendment to the response on climate change

After the motion to adopt the answer to the query failed, the moderator declared that the query had become a new item of business and turned to the delegate body for a motion to answer it.

The delegates adopted a motion to return the query to the originating district and congregation with gratitude, declaring that the church is not of one mind at this time.

— Frances Townsend and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford provided this report.

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