By Russ McCullough

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BNc)- A Christian university professor sat under former Vice-President Al Gore’s tutelage on climate change.

Professor G. Dodd Galbreath took extensive training at last month’s initial “faith community” Climate Project (TCP), according to the Nashville, Tenn.-based Lipscomb University’s website.

Galbreath is executive director of Lipscomb’s Institute for Sustainable Practice.

Held in Nashville Oct. 9-11, the training focused on the film, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Mr. Gore personally taught the session, augmented by a 400-slide presentation.

The purpose of the training session was to solicit support for Mr. Gore’s climate change agenda from Nashville churches, by providing dialog and visual tools to infuse climate change themes into traditional Bible study and pulpit proclamations.

Lipscomb University is affiliated with churches of Christ.

The university highlighted Galbreath’s attendance with the website headline, “Lipscomb’s Green Leader Attends Al Gore’s Inconvenient Slide Show Training.”

Prof. Galbreath is quoted as saying of Mr. Gore, “He was very transparent. He comes at this from a very real place in his heart.”

As to the inter-denominational promotional agenda of the training Prof. Galbreath said, “I think humanity’s search to understand our carbon footprint will greatly assist and support our evangelical footprint or our faith footprint on earth. We can reduce our carbon footprint while increasing our faith footprint, I think they are interrelated.”

No scripture references were provided by the university with the announcement.

Prof. Galbreath’s attendance caught the notice of the local print media in Nashville. The Nashville Tennessean wrote of the training conference on October 12 in an article entitled, “Pastors Join Gore’s Climate Crusade.”

The article quoted Prof. Galbreath extensively. Tennessean staff writer Bob Smietana described the training as “an effort to harness the power of churches to fight climate change.”

The attendees, described as “volunteers,” came from 37 states, representing at least eighteen different denominations.

Smietana did not, however, identify the “church of Christ” as being a denomination.

Additionally, Prof. Galbreath was not identified as being a member of the church of Christ, only as being affiliated with Lipscomb University.

Noting the need to make inroads into the churches of America with his climate change agenda, Mr. Gore is quoted as saying, “People of faith are vital to the effort to combat the climate crisis and represent all walks of life.”

The training underlined the difficult task in bridging the gap between the climate change agenda and the Word of God. The Nashville-based executive director of the “Climate Project,” Jenny Clad, used apocryphal language to make her point.

“We don’t have another twelve years, according to the vast number of scientists, to get our act together to do something incredible to get carbon emissions down,” she said.

Clad’s comment echoed Mr. Gore, who asked rhetorically, “How can we convey the biblical proportions of the disasters that will befall our nation and our world if we don’t make these changes?”

Smietana concluded, “Each of the new faith-based presenters promised to promote the Gore slide show in his or hers faith community, by giving presentations or by running educational activities.”

As with the Lipscomb University announcement, the Tennessean article provides no scripture references.

As to Prof. Galbreath’s personal pledge to spread the climate change message to churches of Christ, the Lipscomb website made the following statement:

“Galbreath … has taken the opportunity to speak with churches about the benefits of environmental sustainability in the past, but now he is armed with 400 slides provided by ‘The Climate Project’ for future presentations. In fact, Galbreath had to take a pledge to make more presentations, using the slideshow, and he plans to hold presentations for students and faculty in the coming months.”
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Contributed by JTC Media, which provides exclusive news and commentary on matters of faith & culture from a biblical perspective for churches of Christ. Freelance author Russ McCullough serves as an elder for the Archdale church in Charlotte, N.C. He can be reached at rmcculls6@bellsouth.net or at 704.506.3856.

Randal and his wife Vicki have lived and worked in Brazil since Nov. 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren. He likes to read novels in his back-porch hammock. http://randal.us

18 thoughts on “Lipscomb pushes climate change agenda

  1. I appreciate the work this publication does when it comes to getting out news about the churches of Christ. However, I think this story falls well short of the journalistic standard which should be necessary to make such a strong statement about a related (and respected) institution such as Lipscomb.

    The headline and basic premise of this article is, in my opinion, overly aggressive, given the circumstances and facts cited in the report. I have gathered from this article that a Lipscomb professor attended one of Al Gore’s training sessions on An Inconvenient Truth. Regardless of the veracity of the specific claims Gore makes in his presentation and the way in which he makes those claims, the idea that we are in a period of climate change is almost universally accepted scientific research, and a large number of scientists believe that this change is the result of human activity.

    God has entrusted us with the care of this planet, His creation. Although God implored us to make use of it, He did not tell us to waste it. The Bible is quite clear about stewardship, and it is reasonable to say that we should be good stewards of the planet Earth. One way to do this is to participate in efforts to encourage conservation and good stewardship, which is the primary effort of Mr. Gore’s presentation. Stewardship of our planet’s resources would be a perfectly reasonable topic for preaching from the pulpit on this basis.

    I say all of this not as an attempt to justify all of the actions Mr. Gore takes with regard to climate change and not to vouch for all of his claims. The point I am attempting to make is more simple than that: attending one of his training sessions and agreeing to present his research is not analogous to pushing a radical agenda.

    To make such a claim is, at best, a stretch. At worst, it is a belligerently dishonest attempt to prey upon preconceived notions about both Mr. Gore himself and the relationship between politics and religion. That’s the clearest way I can put it.

    Having made that point, let me make one more from a personal point of view. I think this article comes across as a distant and ultimately ineffective attack on so-called “progressive” ideas (of which environmental activism would be one, I suppose). An outside observer might similarly argue that BNc is pushing its own separate ill-founded “agenda,” but I would not presume to do so at this point.

    Rather than publish articles like this, I would hope that BNc would devote its resources toward a more honest approach in the future. At the very least, an article with such inherent reporting flaws should be moved to the editorial page and not presented as a news headline.

    Thanks,
    John Wright

  2. John, I think we might ask ourselves this question: Who, exactly, is the “faith community” the seminar targets?

    I am more concerned with a church-affiliated university’s involvement under the “faith community” umbrella, than I am what Al Gore does or does not teach regarding “climate change.”

    I understand the point of the article to be that Lipscomb is involved in ecumenical gatherings, not so much that the school is interested in improving the environment.

    in Christ,

    Matt Clifton

  3. Matt,

    A discussion about church-affiliated institutions and their involvement with the larger “faith community” might have been relevant as “Brotherhood News,” but that’s clearly not the only focus of the article. An article with that singular purpose in mind would have a headline more like “Lipscomb professor enters partnership with non-Bible-based faith initiative.” To me, this article is presented in a way that obscures that issue in a haze of misleading analogies about pushing some kind of vague “agenda.”

    Perhaps this is all an exercise in semantics, but I think it’s worth considering whether an article’s conclusion flows logically from the facts, at the very least, before publishing it. This article clearly does not meet that standard.

    I didn’t mean to ignore your concern, but I wanted to present that statement again for the sake of clarity.

    I believe I understand your concern to be this: Lipscomb seems to be involving itself in an activity with other faith groups (the aforementioned “faith community”), which indirectly gives the university’s approval to this activity. Am I correct?

  4. John,

    There are two issues at stake that the article points out.

    First, the article displays the fact that Lipscomb is participating in “interdenominational” gatherings. This is not surprising, they have done this before.

    Second, Lipscomb is joining Al Gore’s “climate movement,” which is mostly adhered to by liberal left institutions and persons. This is a little surprising, since it is a bold statement about where they are heading.

    It is important for members of the church to take note in regard to both of these issues. The first issue, in my opinion, is far more important than the second. After all, the second issue flows directly out of the first.

    Should the church encourage members to be good stewards of God’s creation? By all means, yes!

    Should the church encourage members to join what is in effect a political movement that not only supports green issues, but also is an attempt to undermine conservative values? No, definitely not.

  5. As the author of this story, a couple of things come to mind after reading the comments, one regarding the body of the story and one regarding the headline.

    In regards to the story itself, I strove to write the body of the story objectively and neutrally as news stories used to be written. Walter Croncite was so good at being objective, no one really knew where he stood politically until his retirement.. In order to write in an objective manner, the story was based primarily on LIpscomb’s own statements on their own web site

    http://www.lipscomb.edu/printfilter.asp?co_key=14553
    (“Lipscomb’s Green Leader Attends Al Gore’s “Inconvenient” Slide Show Training”)

    and secondarily upon a secular media report of these events located at

    http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.d11/article?AID=/20081012/GREEN02/810120417/1001/RSS01
    (“Pastor’s Join Gore’s Climate Crusade.”)

    Upon reading these two sources, the facts speak for themselves. The facts are these: Lipscomb became “unequally yoked with unbelievers” (II Cor. 6:14) by taking biblical instruction from non-christians, by agreeing to an outside obligation being placed upon the professor to re-teach error (the participants include all stripes of denominational error) and by placing students and faculty at spiritual risk to receive error on-going. In effect, Sen. Al Gore has more potential influence on the Lipscomb campus than you and I, members of the Lord’s body. Sen. Gore is aware of the truth of the gospel. I sent him a letter several years ago and shared the gospel with him, and I am sure a number of other Christians have as well. Please pray that he will have a change of heart.

    Finally, a quasi political movement now has a de facto stamp of approval university wide. This pales in comparison with the spiritual implications noted above, though it does compromise academic freedom.

    As to the headline, “Lipscomb Pushes Climate Change Agenda,” it, too, accurately describes the facts. Here they are:
    1. Lipscomb boldly noted the event on the home page of the university, the “bully pulpit.”
    2. The professor is described on the Lipscomb website AND in their own headline as Lipsomb’s “Green Leader.” (Hard to have a “leader” without an agenda!)
    3. According to Libscomb’s own website, the professor “HAD TO” agree to reteach whatever he learned at this inter-denominational teaching event to members of the church of Christ identified as “students and faculty” of Lipscomb University.

  6. Matt,

    In light of your first point, let me present a hypothetical situation similar to what you are calling an “interdenominational gathering.” Let’s suppose that five different denominational churches and a church of Christ exist in a small town with a proportionally large homeless population. Would it be an improper “interdenominational gathering” for these six churches to (A) meet and (B) decide to pool resources together to build a shelter or start a food bank to combat their town’s problem? (I would tend to say no on both counts, but I am interested in your thoughts.)

    That’s admittedly a very pointed question, but I think it’s analogous to the meeting in Nashville. Regardless of whether you think climate change is a problem, this analogy remains relevant to the issue of “ecumenical gatherings.”

    With regard to your second point, I would like to throw out two comments/questions.

    First, how is an attempt to combat global climate change also an attempt to undermine Christian values? I have purposely changed your wording there because conservative values and Christian values are not necessarily synonymous. I think we would agree that only Christian values are relevant to this discussion.

    Second, you’ve mentioned that climate activism is mostly adhered to by those on the political left. That is true, and Mr. Gore is a high-profile proponent of that brand of politics. However, this article and your comments have presented no evidence that Lipscomb truly subscribes to any other aspect of left-wing politics, other than climate change. They simply seem to be advocating environmental stewardship, a position that, despite its many adherents on the left, is actually not inherently political. Taking such a stand certainly does not say anything negative about “where [Lipscomb is] heading.”

  7. John,

    Yes, it would be wrong for the Lord’s church to join in joint activities with denominations, even for good purposes. To pool resources and work jointly places the Lord’s church and denominations on an equal footing in the eyes of the world. Denominationalism is against Christ’s desire for believers to be one (John 17:21). Since such division is sinful (1 Cor. 1:10-13; 3:3), it would be considered a work of darkness which Christians are to expose, not join in (Eph. 5:11). Scriptures are clear on this matter of religious division. The church has enough resources at its disposal to provide for those in need. The church’s problem in this area is motivation, not lack of resources or ability. Joining with denominations is not the answer to either of these problems, but rather Christians taking up the duties to which Christ has called us. Worldliness has caused us to fall short on these duties, but immersing ourselves in more worldliness in the form of denominationalism will help nothing.

    In response to your second thought, does Al Gore stand for conservative Christian values?

    Also, you say that Lipscomb ascribes to no other liberal left politics, other than climate change. If this is true, does it not alarm you that the school would step out now? Don’t you think this may be the first in many turns? Additionally, denominationalism is the outgrowth of the influence of postmodernism. You know, the “I’m okay, you’re okay” philosophy? Do you not see that postmodernism is both a tool and a characteristic of the liberal left?

    If the church encouraged members to take up sound environmental practices, there would be nothing wrong with that at all. But, as I said before, if the church encouraged members to join a liberal political movement to do so, they would be connecting them with people who are involved in other liberal movements, such as abortion rights and “homosexual marriage” rights.

    It does not take much research to know that the majority of the environmental movement is a power play for political purposes. Lipscomb is not the church, it is a private institution. But as an institution that claims affiliation with the church of Christ, the choices and associations Lipscomb makes should be noted.

    in Christ,

    Matt

  8. Matt, Russ, and others,

    I’m almost not sure where to begin, except to say that I do not agree with the conservative values that you have chosen to equate with Christian values. The two are simply not one and the same, and Christians should not be in practice of equating the two (nor should they be equating them with liberal values, but this is less common). God and his commands are not inherently political; He loves all of us and extends his grace to members of all political parties.

    In my comment, I was actually quite careful not to say that Lipscomb doesn’t support other ideas that could be construed as politically left-wing, because they certainly could. I just said that the article and subsequent comments don’t present evidence of other such involvement. I also do not subscribe to your “slippery slope” theory about liberalism, or any other philosophy, for that matter.

    Many people in both major political parties have used artificial distinctions for mainstream issues in order to force people to take sides politically. The climate change issue is about stewardship and not merely politics. The fact that some people on both sides of the issue are manipulating it for political gain is nothing new, and that’s not a good reason to avoid supporting a good cause.

    I can see the argument, based on the “unequally yoked” idea, that Lipscomb’s involvement in this specific activity is newsworthy, although I probably disagree with that underlying theological interpretation. I still think the tone of this article (especially the headline) is unfortunate, since it stretches the facts to play into preconceived political notions about Al Gore and the issue of global warming. Gore and other members of the climate activist movement may or may not have some nefarious “agenda” beyond promoting sustainable environmental practices. We don’t know for sure. A reputable Christian news publication, however, should not be trying to point out Lipscomb’s associations through such intellectually manipulative means.

  9. Brothers;

    The essential fact of this event is that a divisive political movement has been used as a portal to allow a non-christian to overtly teach allegorical & fuller sense interpretations of Scripture to unsuspecting students and faculty. These methods assert that Scripture has “multiple meanings” individually assigned. We know that such is the case because Al Gore himself misapplies Luke 12:54-56 to be a primary text in regards to detrimental climate change. Check it out for yourself:

    http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=27293

    Origen would be impressed. In truth, Jesus uses an every day example of routine / non-detrimental weather conditions to illustrate the fact that his audience should “discern the times” in order to warn them that “unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

    Such interpretive license, as Sen. Gore uses, allows modern day readers to assingn “meanings” to Scripture unknown to either the 1st and 2nd century readers of Luke or even Luke himself! Sen. Gore goes beyond allegorical interpretation and incorporates a “fuller sense” approach in order to conclude that this passage speaks to 21st century climate change.

    We also know that “The Climate Project” is part and parcel of a quasi Baptist organization known as the “New Baptist Covenant Celebration.” About 30 Baptist denominations belong, all unhappy with the Southern Baptist Convention. Theologically, they appear to be left of center. Their web site neither asks nor answers the question, “What must I do to be saved?” This, too, you should check out for yourself at:

    http://www.newbaptistcelebration.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=142&Itemid=101

    What makes all this so urgently important is the fact that those who receive the “teaching” MUST agree to present the material to at least 6 group gatherings within their own “faith community” during the next year. The Lipscomb professor, via the Lipscomb website, HAD to comply and plans to do so by teaching climate change based upon allegorically interpreted Scripture to both students and faculty. Such a partnership is what Paul warns against in II Cor. 6:14 – an unequal yoking with unbelievers.

    God bless you all

  10. John,

    I’m not really interested in politics. I do not believe the church should involve itself in politics. The main thrust that needs to be addressed, in my opinion, is this:

    “Yes, it would be wrong for the Lord’s church to join in joint activities with denominations, even for good purposes. To pool resources and work jointly places the Lord’s church and denominations on an equal footing in the eyes of the world. Denominationalism is against Christ’s desire for believers to be one (John 17:21). Since such division is sinful (1 Cor. 1:10-13; 3:3), it would be considered a work of darkness which Christians are to expose, not join in (Eph. 5:11). Scriptures are clear on this matter of religious division.”

    Can you show biblical references that show these concepts to be untrue?

    What scriptures would you use to justify cooperation with denominations?

    If these concepts from the Bible hold, then there is indeed a problem with Lipscomb’s actions, and congregations of the Lord’s church that practice and support similar actions.

  11. Russ,

    The over-arching theme of my commentary on this article has been that your diction and presentation of facts is misleading. This remains true, and your previous explanation (regarding the so-called “bully pulpit” and your justification for calling climate activism an “agenda”) about the headline still requires a heavy dose of opinion to arrive at your conclusion. Your last comment, which ignores my criticism entirely in an effort to further discredit Mr. Gore (and indirectly, Lipscomb), makes my criticism even stronger. The editorial leeway you have been given to make your point is simply astounding, especially for an article intended as a news item.

    I will not be making any further comments on this article, and I will close with one comment: leaving this article the way it is written (and prominently featured, no less) does a disservice to this publication’s Christian readers and any other web-surfing truth-seekers.

  12. Matt,

    Perhaps I should have read your comment before saying I wouldn’t respond further. I’ll respond anyway, and this will (again) be my final comment on the matter.

    I haven’t been interested in addressing the theological position you’ve taken because, even if that position is part the purpose of the article, it is unrelated to my criticism. The interpretation of scripture you present above is, in my view, logically fallacious, especially given Christ’s call for unity (which you reference yourself). I would agree that denominations are not what the Lord intended for the church. However, an interpretation of scripture that suggests we should not cooperate with denominational churches has the ultimate effect of separating the church of Christ like all the other denominations.

    Again, this deflects from the criticism I’ve laid out (and breaks my own final-comment promise), but I felt it appropriate to briefly respond to your question.

  13. John,

    When reporting on the church, theological considerations are of prime importance.

    There is no logical way to say that Jesus wants all believers to be unified, and Paul says to speak the same things and be of the same judgment, and still advocate cooperation with denominations.

    I am willing to discuss this with you further in private, or public, in any way you choose.

    May God bless you in all things according to His will,

    Matt

  14. Dear jfwii, Matt, John, et al;

    I lost an earlier reply…don’t know where it went! Newspapers and news magazines have both news reports and news analysis. What I have had to say post-article is analysis. The article itself is a news report, totally factual. I chose neutral and objective language to descibe the facts and only the facts. There is nothing in the article that is factually in error. A serious reading of the Lipscomb website and the “Tennessean” article clearly state the very same facts. The facts remain as they are: 1) A Lipscomb professor received Bible teaching from a non-Christian (Baptists reject the New Testament teaching on the necessity of baptism for the remission of sins, in addition to other errors.) 2) Lipscomb chose to not only allow the professor to attend this training, they bragged about it on their web site and allowed its promotion in the “Tennessean.” 3) Lipscomb supports the future re-teaching of misaaplied Scripture (Luke 12:54-56, et al) to both “students and faculty.”

    These facts constitute an “unequal yoke with unbelivers.” (II Cor. 6) Before anyone might object to such a characterization, ask and answer these questions: Did our Lord turn over Bible teaching to the Sadducees to whom he said, “ye err not knowing the Scriptures?” Did the Hebrew writer turn over Bible teaching to the Pharisees? Did the apostle John turn over Bible teaching to the Gnostics?

    While it is regretful that the university allowed the politiization of one side of a scientific question and the de facto censorship of oppossing views, it is by far more alarming to now know that denominational error has a portal into the minds of Christians on this great Christian campus.

    We must constantly “test the spirits” and teach “all things whatsoever Christ commands” in the Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles and the Revelation.

    God bless you all – Russ

  15. Russ, we are in complete agreement on this, of course, but I just wanted to say good work on the article, and on the concise re-statement of the facts in your post above.

    Matt

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