Leaders cite protecting indigenous spiritualities and land-based livelihoods among reasons for caution
Today, five top Alaskan Christian faith leaders sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary Jewell thanking them for their “prudent decision to revoke permits to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas under the Department of Interior’s 2017-2022 Oil and Gas Leasing Program.” (Read the Department of Interior statement about the permit revocations.)
Signers included Orthodox Church in America Diocese of Sitka and Alaska Bishop David Mahaffey, Alaska United Methodist Conference Superintendent Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut, Presbyterian Church (USA) Presbytery of the Yukon Executive Presbyter Rev. Curt Karns, Alaska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Bishop Shelley Wickstrom, and Episcopal Diocese of Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime.
The letter highlights their “grief, lamentation, and alarm over the rapid devastation of Arctic ecology and Native Alaskan subsistence lifestyles.” It also expresses appreciation for President Obama’s intentional effort to experience and listen to the pain of Arctic communities: “The Arctic is experiencing global warming at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the world. We are grateful you came to understand our reality first hand when you visited Alaska.”
Aware of their own faith communities’ economic struggles and fears, the letter’s authors declared: “Now is the time to make difficult decisions about fossil fuels. Our communities feel pressure to provide for their families, and some see fossil fuels as the only choice for economic opportunity. We reject the premise that families must choose between eating today, and providing for all of creation tomorrow.”
The leaders also pledged to be problem-solvers: “We need new economic opportunities for Alaska that will bring blessings not only today, but to future generations. We pledge to work with our faith communities toward such solutions.”
Creation Justice Ministries executive director Shantha Ready Alonso said of the letter, “Faith communities in Alaska are on the front lines of coping with ecological damage. This letter is a sign of relief that at least one existential threat to communities’ spiritualities, livelihoods, and safety has been put to rest.”
Creation Justice Ministries represents the creation care policies of 38 Christian communions, including Baptists, mainline Protestants, Historically Black Churches, Peace Churches, and Orthodox communions. Learn more at www.creationjustice.org