The Christian church is a huge social movement, so imagine the potential if every local church was to more effectively pursue its biblical mandate for environmental stewardship and take a lead.
In fact, activism by the church corporate is on the rise despite leaders of all traditions, in common with their counterparts in the educational, political and financial establishments, being slow to understand the magnitude of destruction and urgency with which we must heal the Earth.
For instance, in 2006 the New Zealand Presbyterian Church set up an ecologically focused task group to investigate and develop a biblical response to deepening ecological problems. The group sought to provide congregations with practical guidelines, examine ways by which the church may help reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, and develop a Declaration of the Care of Creation. Church leaders later presented to the Government a paper titled Protecting New Zealand's envir onment and economy for current and future generations.
Methodists, working to promote a "Green church", briefed ministers of environment and sustainability last year.
Catholic activists have found support in teachings by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. Pope Francis has also taken a stance on Christian stewardship towards the environment, calling on Christians to become "custodians of creation". He endorses climate action, has made cases on Christian environmentalism and is preparing a major statement on the environment and human ecology.
The Global Catholic Climate Movement, meanwhile, is circulating a petition which seeks to display "a strong Catholic voice" of concern on climate change ahead of climate talks in Paris in December.
As the scientific community has presented evidence of climate change, some members of the evangelical community and other Christian groups have emphasised the need for Christian ecology, often employing the phrase "creation care" to indicate the religious basis of their project. Some of these groups are now interdenominational, having begun from an evangelical background and then gained international and interdenominational prominence with the increase in public awareness of environmental issues.
So much for the rhetoric, but can the churches really make a difference? The answer came last July when an umbrella group of churches, which represents over half a billion Christians worldwide, decided to pull its investments out of fossil fuel companies.
The decision by the World Council of Churches, which has 345 member churches, was welcomed as a "major victory" by climate campaigners who have been calling on companies and institutions such as pension funds, universities and local governments to divest from coal, oil and gas.
This move followed contributions by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the UN's climate chief, Christiana Figueres.
Tutu said that "people of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change" and events sponsored by fossil fuel companies could even be boycotted. Figueres called on faith leaders to show leadership on climate change, urging religious groups to drop their investments in fossil fuels and to encourage their members to do the same.
While the WCC decision only applies to the council's own investments rather than its members, such as the Church of England, this example of ethical investment criteria is a remarkable moment which will hopefully lead to an enhanced focus on climate change and investment. The Church of England followed through this month by signalling it will sell off investments in coal and tar sands.
Another form of activism rising particularly in US has seen church members, a Bible in one hand and a protest sign in the other, linking with the environmental movement in the fight against oil and gas drilling. A growing school of theological thought leaders there are marching on the picket line, and becoming specific-issue activists.
This is a balancing act, as the movement has also led to a rift among Christians, as some high-profile leaders fear that churchgoers are letting themselves be used by secular activists. While recognising that churches shouldn't shy away from controversial topics such as the environment, the trick is to ensure that the conversation doesn't drive people away.
As for those happy to stay in the pews, they can also make a difference by embracing an Earth-centred spirituality at the heart of which is the need to live more lightly on the Earth and to work for a more just and equitable human community, eschewing the modern, growth-oriented, industrial model of development. The starting point is to recognise that what many people feel is the good life, something to be aspired to and worked for, is in fact destroying our world.
Dave Scoullar is a chaplain at Wanganui Hospital, a conservationist and member of the Te Araroa Whanganui Trust