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Faculty Member Attends International Summit at the Vatican

Faculty Member Attends International Summit at the Vatican

Bethel Seminary Professor of Theology and Ethics Glen G. Scorgie joined other scientists and religious leaders for a climate change conference convened at the Vatican in Rome.

Influential scientists and religious leaders gathered at the Vatican in November for presentations about air pollution and climate change and their impacts on human health and the environment, and a Bethel Seminary professor was among them. Glen G. Scorgie, Bethel Seminary San Diego professor of theology and ethics, was invited as an official observer to the international conference on Health of People, Health of Planet and Our Responsibility, a gathering of 37 participants/presenters and 22 invited observers convened by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican in Rome.

The three-day event featured more than 40 academic papers by leading scientists, prominent health care authorities, government officials, and faith leaders. It also produced a declaration titled “Our Planet, Our Health, Our Responsibility,” signed by conference members including Nobel prizewinners, world-class scientists like Stephen Hawking, and prominent faith leaders like Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals in the U.S. Scorgie, who was also among the 123 signatories, was invited to the gathering because of some previous collaborative work and his friendship with the primary organizer of the event, V. Ramanathan, who is internationally recognized as one of the world’s leading climate scientists.

The conference was part of recent ongoing efforts by the Vatican to mobilize the world’s faith communities in an effort to increase awareness and action regarding creation care. “The Vatican has been providing moral leadership in shaping global Christian response to the intensifying threats to a safe and sustainable planet,” says Scorgie, “threats created largely by human activity and choices.” The workshop focused particularly on air pollution and climate change, and their negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the world’s poorest people, a group that historically has been close to the hearts of Christians.

“The caliber of the participants, the quality of their research, and the earnestness of their presentations was truly inspirational,” Scorgie says. “They presented well-documented evidence, then drew reasonable inferences from it. They showed that countless impoverished people around the world are already suffering from the impact of environmental degradation, air pollution, and climate change, and that the time to act is now.”

A recurring theme of the conference, says Scorgie, is that no significant mitigation of our intensifying ecological crisis can be achieved without the active support of the world’s faith communities. “There is global consensus now that any comprehensive solution to our ecological crisis must have a spiritual component to it,” he explains. “It will require heart change, and religions like Christianity are best equipped for this since they offer inspirational vision, influence human values, and alter what we care about most beyond ourselves.”  

Scorgie returned from the conference with new awareness and insights, including the conviction that “what all of us do, or do not do, in this next decade could well shape the future of the world as we know it.” He also expanded his network of friendships, connecting with scientists who are interested in joining him to visit churches and educate Christians on how to better fulfill our calling to care for God’s creation. He has already received several speaking opportunities in the San Diego area as a result of the conference.

“Dr. Scorgie's involvement in this event is significant for Bethel University,” says Jeannine Brown, interim co-vice president and dean of Bethel Seminary. “To have one of our own faculty providing voice to an evangelical stance on the urgency of climate change issues provides unique opportunity for wide-ranging conversations.”