The last time the Southern Baptist Convention had anything to say about the environment was last year. The 2007 annual meeting of the denomination approved a statement questioning the belief that humans are largely to blame for climate change and warning that increased regulation of greenhouse gases will hurt the poor. Take that, global warming! Up yours, Al Gore!
That was then. And amazing what a few additional months hath wrought.
Today, some 35 leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, including the convention's president and some of its most hide-bound political warriors, released a statement, "A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change," admitting that current evidence of global warming is "substantial," and that the threat is too grave to wait for perfect knowledge about whether, or how much, people contribute to the trend.
"We believe our current denominational resolutions and engagement with these issues have often been too timid," according to the statement. "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."
We call this a conversion experience.
More cynical observers might call it PR. The Southern Baptists were on the losing side of a world-wide movement, and many younger evangelicals are as dedicated to reducing their carbon footprint as they are to Sunday services.