The nation's two largest religious denominations have taken significant steps to promote a healthier environment.

A group of more than 40 Southern Baptist leaders have signed a declaration calling for action on climate change. Released today, the declaration marks a major departure from the resolution passed last year by the Southern Baptist Convention questioning whether human activity significantly contributes to global warming. The SBC is the nation's second-largest denomination after the Roman Catholic Church.

The SBC's current president, Rev. Frank Page, signed the declaration, as did past presidents Jack Graham and James Merritt. The document calls on Baptist churches to promote creation care, and it calls on individual Baptists to give "serious consideration" to responsible policies addressing the climate problem:

We believe our current denominational engagement with these issues have often been too timid, failing to produce a unified moral voice. Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed. We can do better. To abandon these issues to the secular world is to shirk from our responsibility to be salt and light. The time for timidity regarding God's creation is no more.

And in a newspaper interview published this past weekend, a top Vatican official was asked about "new sins" and listed "ecological offenses" among modern evils. Also on the list were genetic manipulation, drug trafficking, and social and economic injustices.

The statement from Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti follows Pope Benedict's earlier declaration that issues such as climate change and care of water resources "are matters of grave importance for the entire human family."