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RECLAIMING CREATION: Growth in Religious Environmentalism

While religion has been connected with the environment since the first creation story, the pace at which religious organizations have tackled environmental stewardship has been increasing since the 1950s. This timeline charts key events and major milestones of religious traditions and scientific organizations in the United States.


Rain passes over Fontana Lake in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Photo by Eileen Mignoni)

1950s-1960s | 1970s-1980s | 1990s | 2000-2005 | 2006-2009


1954: Pioneer Lutheran thinker Joseph Sittler writes environmental essay “A Theology for Earth.”

Mid 1960s: Faith-Man-Nature Group is founded to connect religious leaders and scientists.

1967: In a Time magazine article, historian Lynn White Jr. condemns Christians for failing to care for the environment.

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1970: Earth Day is founded.

1970: The National Association of Evangelicals releases a policy resolution called “Ecology” that condemns the destruction of nature as a sin against God.

Early 1970s: Lutheran and Presbyterian churches write statements and hold meetings about environmental crises.

1970s: Evangelical magazine Christianity Today contains almost no mention of the environment.

Mid 1970s: The National Council of Churches establishes an agenda for energy policy and the environment.

1973: Forty evangelical leaders sign the “Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern” and found a group with the same name.

1979: Scientist Calvin DeWitt founds the Au Sable Institute for study of the environment and God’s creation.

1987: The North American Conference on Christianity and Ecology is founded.

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Pope John Paul II advocated ecological awareness and labeled environmental destruction a threat to world peace. (Photo by trp0 on Flickr.)


1990: Pope John Paul II gives a speech titled “The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility.

1990: Thirty-two scientists and 271 spiritual leaders from 83 countries sign an appeal for the environment titled “Open Letter to the American Religious Community.”

1992: Al Gore meets with Jewish leadership to propose a Jewish response to the environmental crisis.

1993: The Evangelical Environmental Network is founded.

1993: The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life is founded.

1993: The National Religious Partnership for Environment is founded.

1994: The Evangelical Environmental Network releases “An Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation,” asserting Christian responsibility for creation.

1996: The Forum on Religion and Ecology is founded and hosts conferences on religion and ecology at Harvard’s Center for the Study of World Religions, attracting more than 800 environmentalists and interfaith scholars.

1997: The Environmental Protection Agency launches its Energy Star Congregations program.

1998: Reverend Sally Bingham founds Episcopal Power and Light.

1999: Energy Star offers its first awards to congregations.

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2000: The Interfaith Coalition for Environmental Stewardship releases The Cornwall Declaration questioning climate change science, with collaboration from the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance.

2000: Pope John Paul II states that Earth will rebel against humanity if people do not safeguard it.


The Rev. Sally Bingham, founder of Interfaith Power and Light, stands beside solar panels on the roof of the San Francisco Zen Center in 2007. (Photo courtesy of the Regeneration Project)

2000: Reverend Bingham founds Interfaith Power and Light. One hundred congregations join.

2001: Restoring Eden: Christians for Environmental Stewardship is founded.

2002: The Evangelical Environmental Network launches the “What Would Jesus Drive” campaign.

2002: Richard Cizik, a lobbyist for the National Evangelical Association, advocates a place for climate change on the evangelical political agenda.

2005: The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance releases a paper arguing the uncertainties of climate change.

2005: Iowa, North Carolina and Texas join Interfaith Power and Light, for a total of 1,000 members in 18 states.

2005: Christians for the Mountains is founded to fight coal industry.

2005: The Sierra Club begins partnering with religious communities.

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2006 – 2009

2006: Alaska joins Interfaith Power and Light, bringing the organization’s total membership to 20 states.

2006: The Evangelical Climate Initiative is announced.

2006: Eighty-six evangelical leaders sign the Evangelical Climate Initiative’s “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action.”

2006: The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance issues a rebuttal against the Evangelical Climate Initiative and asks the National Association of Evangelicals to avoid an official stance on global warming.

2006: The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change launches.

2006: Al Gore produces “An Inconvenient Truth.”

2007: D.C. Green Muslims is founded.

2007: Hawaii, Kentucky, Ohio, Rhode Island and Utah join Interfaith Power and Light, bringing its total membership to 25 states.

2007: The first Vatican seminar on global warming, “Climate Change and Development,” is hosted.

2007: The National Association of Evangelicals and Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and Global Environment host retreat for 28 evangelicals and scientists.

2007: Twenty-five evangelical leaders including James Dobson criticize Richard Cizik for advocating environmentalism.


Tri Robinson, pastor of Vineyard Boise, chronicles his experiences living and working a sustainable ranch on his blog, Timber Butte Homestead. Here, he walks his horse on his land. (Photo courtesy of Tri Robinson)

2007: The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance is renamed The Cornwall Alliance.

2008: The 28 evangelicals and scientists from the 2007 NAE and Harvard retreat sign “An Urgent Call to Action.”

2008: Southern Baptists leaders sign a declaration on the environment and climate change.

2008: Alabama, Nebraska and Kansas join Interfaith Power and Light, bringing its total membership to 28 states.

2008: The Forum on Religion and Ecology holds a conference called “Renewing Hope” for religious environmentalism. Three hundred and fifty people attend.

2008: “Renewal,” a feature-length documentary on religion and the environment, is released.

2008: The Sierra Club publishes “Faith in Action” report.

2008: Sierra Club publishes “Holy Ground.”

2008: Al Gore’s The Climate Project launches.

2008: Twelve young Christians found Renewal: Students caring for creation.

2008: The National Association of Evangelicals reiterates that it does not have a specific stance on global warming and that Richard Cizik spoke for himself.


The Rev. Dr. E. Gail Anderson Holness awards the Venerable Katugastota Uparatana a Founder’s Award at the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington on June 1, 2009. The Interfaith Conference recognized members of the religious community working to advance environmental stewardship. (Photo by Eileen Mignoni)

2008: Evangelical pastor Tri Robinson of the Vineyard Boise is invited to blog for The Huffington Post.

2008: HarperCollins publishes a Bible in which all passages relating to the environment are printed in green ink.

2008: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star co-sponsors a creation care conference at the mega Northland Church of Longwood, Fl.

2009: Interfaith Power and Light membership rises to 10,000 congregations and 400,000 people in 29 states.

2009: The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change launches “A Catholic Climate Covenant: the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor.”

2009: Interfaith leaders testify at an Environmental Protection Agency endangerment hearing on greenhouse gases.

2009: The InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington honors members of the interfaith community working to advance environmental stewardship.

2009: The first annual Flourish Conference for evangelical pastors is held.

2009: Southeastern Baptist theological seminary holds conference on creation care.

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