Flourish in the News

March 21, 2009


Chris Quinn at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had a story today (“Pastor sees care of Earth as duty‘”) about the Merritts (James and Jonathan), telling the story of how each came to see creation care as part of the church’s mission.

Smog turned the Rev. James Merritt into a believer.

Not a believer in God. The former president of the 16 million-strong Southern Baptist Convention was already there.

Atlanta’s dirty air and talks with his son, Jonathan, 26, convinced Merritt that taking better care of God’s green Earth was a religious duty. It was a revelation for the Duluth preacher.

“Being a conservative —- social, political and theological —- I took a little bit of a jaundiced view of the whole Al Gore approach to environmental phenomena,” he said, referring to the former vice president who has become a crier on impending environmental collapse.

For Merritt, smog’s effects on Atlantans’ health, warm winters of recent years and media environmental reports began seeping into his consciousness. Like many evangelical and conservative Christians, he has crossed over and now sees taking care of the environment as a faith issue, “creation care,” as he terms it.

Atlanta has become a hot spot for faith-based environmentalists and was home to the Evangelical Environmental Network until last year, when the organization moved to the Washington area.

One of its former officers started Flourish, a new Christian environmental group that includes Jonathan Merritt, son of the Rev. James Merritt.

Jonathan, who works at his father’s church, was a seminary student last year when he published a statement about Baptists needing to pay more attention to the environment. It drew a withering response from many in the Southern Baptist Convention, who saw it as a sign of seeping liberalism. It also drew support and helped kick-start a conversation that has picked up steam. Their church, Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, will play host to a national faith-based environmental conference May 13-15.

Jonathan Merritt said he hopes it will be a starting point for a change in thinking more holistically about man’s God-given responsibility for the world.

“I think it’s going to be a primary touch point for the church to get involved in in the 21st century,” he said.

For more information: flourishonline.org/Conference.html

The story also highlights the work of local environmental non-profit Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, which on Friday hosted a training session for church facilities managers to learn how to save energy and water in their church buildings. Georgia Interfaith Power and Light is helping with energy efficiency training at the Flourish conference.

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