Jonathan Merritt, who has been writing news articles for us for a little less than a year, was featured in several national news reports today including an Associated Press article on our website, for his leadership in rallying Southern Baptists to vow to do something about climate change  (same story appears on MSNBC, a different one in the New York Times). A number of Southern Baptist leaders have signed on to the Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment & Climate Change — and Jonathan is the spokesperson for the initiative.

As such, Jonathan wrote an op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution yesterday defending the initiative and clarifying what it is, and is not.  Chances are he’ll be doing more of this in the days to come, and he’s obviously (at least from his AJC piece) up to the task.

Meanwhile, the Southern Baptist Convention appears to be creating some distance between itself and the Climate Change Initiative, or at least clarifying the difference between an SBC action and a grassroots action by Southern Baptists. Headline on the SBC website: “Climate Change project is not SBC’s”. 

SBC President Frank Page released a statement today noting that he supports the initiative but perhaps diffusing some controversy over the language in the declaration, particular this part:

We believe our current denominational engagement with these issues have often been too timid, failing to produce a unified moral voice. Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed. We can do better. To abandon these issues to the secular world is to shirk from our responsibility to be salt and light. The time for timidity regarding God’s creation is no more.

We probably should hesitate to read ‘conflict’ into this though. The SBC’s polity is similar enough to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) that we can recall having to clarify to the media and the rest of the world the difference between an action by a group of Disciples, or by our General Minister and President, as opposed to an action by the General Assembly – and that in neither case does one speak for all Disciples.

Mostly, we’re just proud to say we know Jonathan, and we encourage him to continue to rally Southern Baptist and Christians in general to care more for God’s creation. We could all learn much from him. As the declaration says, “We can do better.” That’s true for we Disciples too.