$4.5 Million to Mainstream Churches: Environment Program Is Interfaith Effort

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Environment program is interfaith effort

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The U.S. mainstream religious community, by embracing the $4.5 million, three-year National Religious Partnership for the Environment campaign, is placing environmental issues at the heart of religious life.

Jesuit Fr. Drew Christiansen, director of the U.S. Catholic Conference's Office of International Justice and Peace, told NCR the religious representatives who formed the partnership "felt very strongly that what churches and synagogues could bring to the environmental movement had to do with environmental justice." They could contribute a preferential option for the poor, he said, to create awareness of making choices that simultaneously benefit the environment and are "friendly to the poor and vulnerable."

The new program is a joint effort of four major faith groups: the U.S. Catholic Conference, the National Council of Churches of Christ, the Consultation on the Environment and Jewish Life and the Evangelical Environmental Network.

Its three years of intensive activity will range from public-policy education and development of theological and moral scholarship to pilot programs in 53,000 congregations. The USCC, for instance, will provide environmental kits to every parish in the nation annually during the three years. It has never before undertaken such a project, said Paul Gorman, executive director of the partnership.

From his office in New York, where the partnership's joint secretariat is located at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Gorman told NCR, "Rarely if ever has there been agreement on so detailed a program over so long a period of time across so wide a spectrum of faith groups."

He said "ancient faith communities are embracing a new world historical challenge," and the project's goal "is to secure the long-term engagement of the religious community with issues of global sustainability and justice."

Already, the campaign has garnered $3 million of its $4.3 million funding, with major commitments from Pew Charitable Trusts and the Nathan Cummings, Ford, Rockefeller, Surdna and C. …