Our hope is that this July issue finds you well, and with the peace of Christ.
Below you'll find our EARTH-Keeper for the month, photos and report from the Eco-Stewards gathering, an update from Curt Kairns in Alaska, and a follow up from General Assembly.
But first, I want to say that it has been a privilege and honor to serve for the last year as the Vice-Moderator of Presbyterians for Earth Care. As of General Assembly, I've stepped down because in August I will begin a Ph.D. program at Drew University in Madison, NJ. I'll be studying how we build an eco-feminist theology as a response to climate change. I look forward to remaining connected to PEC in lots of ways--and I can't wait to hear and see where God calls us all to next.
abby mohaupt, EARTH Editor
JULY EARTH KEEPER: Brad Crabtree, a Vice President of Great Plains Institute by Paul Henschen
A lifelong connection to the land and people who earn a living from it has shaped Brad Crabtree’s professional work on climate stewardship. Growing up hunting and fishing in North Dakota, he developed a deep appreciation for nature and commitment to conservation. Today, Brad, his wife Renee Gopal, and daughter Suria manage their family ranch, practicing rotational, intensive livestock grazing to restore grasslands and habitat.
Brad began his career overseas in Southeast Asia and Brazil and then spent several years working on energy and environmental policy in Washington, DC. There, he saw firsthand how growing political polarization—between Democrats and Republicans, rural and urban states, and environmental organizations and industry—undermines our ability to address profound societal challenges such as climate change.
In 1997, Brad returned to North Dakota committed to building consensus on an approach to climate change that people from all walks of life could embrace. With the Consensus Council and later the Great Plains Institute, he launched the Power the Plains project in 2001, bringing together environmental groups, coal and electric power companies, farm organizations, and state governments across the entire Northern Plains—many of whom had never worked together before. They developed the first comprehensive strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for an entire rural region, which led to ambitious bipartisan energy and climate agreements signed by Midwestern governors in 2007. At that time, Brad also helped his wife Renee found the ecumenical Prairie Stewardship Network, convening North Dakota clergy and lay leaders for the first time to promote Creation stewardship.
Brad has coordinated since 2011 a national industry, labor and environmental coalition that is encouraging Congress to provide incentives to industry to capture CO2 and store it safely and permanently in geologic formations. This proven practice pioneered in unexpected places such as Texas, North Dakota and Wyoming reduces CO2 emissions (to near zero in some cases), while ensuring viability for industries that provide livelihoods to millions of Americans.
At a time of political discord, economic anxiety and mounting environmental concerns, Brad finds inspiration in helping some of America’s largest coal, oil, ethanol and industrial companies, labor unions and environmental organizations work in partnership for the first time. As he sees it, if these erstwhile adversaries can find common ground, we have reasons to be hopeful about the prospects for tackling our collective climate challenge.
The tide is rising and so are we… by Vickie Machado
Last month participants from around the country gathered in Seattle to reflect on how to navigate the environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest with regards to climate change and within the context of Christian faith. Collectively our group of seven EcoStewards and four leaders examined Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home. We reflected upon these words on the shores of Lake Washington and Bellingham Bay, while connecting them to the actions of many of the people and organizations we visited.
Folks at the Sightline Institute introduced us to the danger coal trains posed to many small towns as cargo loads brought the possibility of explosions, coal dust, and traffic issues rather than the promise of local jobs. Earth Ministry discussed their push to engage churches in these issues primarily teaching churches to act as allies to local Native American tribes. In the middle of the week, we met with the Backbone Campaign as they offered insight into the mass organization of kayak-ivists that worked to block oil ships from leaving port. And finally, the Lummi Nation graced us with their stories and wisdom as they shared the generations’ long fight for equality and their more recent move to prevent export facilities at Cherry Point.
In all of these instances, words from the encyclical and deeper understandings from our faith tradition appeared as we navigated how to serve God while caring for creation and our fellow brothers and sisters. We contemplated this call while meeting with others, communally preparing and sharing meals, singing songs, worshiping together, exploring the city by public transit, and kayaking Puget Sound. Within this week we learned and grew from those around us, recognizing the impact we all have in our world and that it takes every bit of effort to make a difference. Based on Rabbi Shochana Meira Friedman’s song, which we collectively sang the last night in Seattle, “the world is ready and so are we.”
Getting Out of the Corner by Curt Kairns
Recently Mark Lattime, Alaska bishop for the Episcopalian Church, invited me as Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Yukon to travel with him to Washington D.C. Our purpose was to join with Christian advocates from five Christian agencies meeting with The White House Council on Environmental Quality. The Council was exploring greater restrictions on oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We were the Alaskans on the team, and we asked for a shift in the ethical and political conversation on the subject.
We Alaskans find ourselves trapped in a corner. Our families, friends and neighbors are so economically dependent on oil that we find discussion about restricting oil development difficult. Indeed, Alaska’s economy traps Alaska’s congressional delegation into fighting for development, no matter what.
This is true even though climate change is hitting Alaska faster and harder than any place else in the nation. Alaskans may sound like science deniers, but really we are just trapped in a corner. Alaska, and others (West Virginia coal miners?), really cannot deal with the level of change our country needs from us without help.
This is an issue we Christians need to speak out on. Genesis 2 tells us that creation care and people care are of equal importance. Choosing one ethical value over the other may fit partisan politics, but deep ethics—ethics inspired by the transforming power of God—holds both values together.
This is a time for deeper ethics rather than that of partisan politics. We are in an important historical moment, so let us see it for what it is. This is not a people versus nature moment. This is the moment when God is reminding us that we are related to all of creation. Loving our neighbor therefore means earth care and people care go hand-in-hand.
What will this look like politically? This same issue caused the UN to form the Green Climate Fund. Surely, deep ethics can affect domestic policy, too.
On our part, Mark and I invited leaders from four other denominations to join us in this work. Together, we are speaking to our churches and to power structures across the state about the importance of this moment, and the importance of effective policies informed by an ethic of earth care AND people care. It is time to reframe the issue, so no one is fighting from a corner.
April 29, From left: Rengel King (Franciscans), Nora Leccese (PCUSA), Gerry Lee (Maryknoll Ministries), Curt Karns (Presbytery of Yukon PCUSA), Jasmine Huggins (Church World Services), Mark Lattime (Diocese of Alaska, Episcopalian), Shantha Alonzo (Creation Justice Ministries), Katie Furrow (Church of the Brethren). Taking the picture and not in photo: Jayce Hafner (Episcopalian).
Peace and grace to you!
Many thanks to Abby Mohaupt for the invitation to write about the "wins" of General Assembly (GA)!
What a great framework that is… as it reminds me of all the positives about this biennial gathering of fellow Presbyterians! Many of us are still holding the energy of people and experience of the assembly with us!
Those of us who have been planning PEC's presence at GA were thrilled to visit with the many people who came by the exhibit hall and shared their passion about creation care. We greatly enjoyed sharing our booth space with Fossil Free PC USA! What a blessing to be able to feel and share their love "for creation!”
Members of FFPCUSA at the booth in the exhibit hall
The PEC luncheon and Awards Presentation was a huge success! We planned for 100 and 100 attended! It was a gift to share an exquisite meal with beloved friends. We are so grateful for Rebecca Barnes and Gary Payton, who shared with us "Beyond Paris"… the work of the Paris climate talks and how the world needs to respond in this crucial time.
Abby Mohaupt with Rev. Dr. Patricia Tull, one of the winners of our annual awards.
Of course there were numerous overtures which we had helped shepherd through a long process, all of which passed in some form or version or another, although we share disappointment that the goals of divestment overture were changed in plenary.
Yet overall, GA was a delight. What a grand opportunity for Presbyterians to share passion about our work in the world! It is a blessing to be able to see friends, acquaintances and meet with PCUSA staff! Many thanks to GA staff who served to resource committees including our friends Ruth Farrell (Presbyterian Hunger Program), Rebecca Barnes (Environmental Ministries) and Nora Leccese (Office of Public Witness). The staff and many volunteers on the Committee on Local Arrangements worked very hard to set up this gathering and it is definitely noticed!
There were so many opportunities for gathering together seeking justice. We appreciated the chance to meet with Voices 4 Justice and for other gatherings such as the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship breakfast! I am so grateful for the work of Rick Ufford-Chase and others who have assembled a book Faithful Resistance: Gospel Visons for the Church in a Time of Empire" Quoting from the back cover "14 contributing authors ...offer their ideas for ways to move the Christian church to a place of faithfulness in the midst of the empire. Rick adds his own observations about the compromised condition of our church institutions with concrete suggestions for bringing us home to the heart of the gospel." (I bought 8 copies to share!)
Certainly the Holy Spirit was among us as the body elected two exceptional women as co-moderators, Revs. Denise Anderson and Jan Edminston, as well as electing the Reverend J. Herbert Nelson as Stated Clerk of the PCUSA. His passion for both environmental and social justice has been prophetic for Presbyterians for Earth Care as well as others and this denomination
Let us continue to work together, in faithful presence/resistance as we move forward as a body of Christ toward making this denomination one of major prophetic leadership as we seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God!
Diane Waddell, Moderator of PEC
want to join the newsletter committee and help PEC reflect on God's creation?
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