Creation Justice Ministries organizational comment on the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Draft Management Plan
By Nicholas Anton
When the Incarnate Christ is baptized in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit descends and the Father proclaims, “this is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). In this moment, God is revealed as Trinity: three persons, one essence. This is why the Feast that commemorates Christ’s baptism is called Epiphany (or Theophany), which translates from Greek as the illuminating revelation of God.
The annual Celebration of Epiphany concludes and culminates the Twelve Days of the Nativity of Christ. The revelation itself happens after His baptism rather than at His incarnation. Why?
The Incarnation of Christ is a piece of the larger puzzle whereby Christ fully takes on human nature; it is just one piece of the whole creation. However, through His baptism in water, the symbol for all creation, Christ takes on its totality. Thus, the revelation of God shows us that all things are encompassed in God – not just material things, not just plants, not just animals, and, of course, not just humans. Indeed, this extremely important moment reveals the Trinity setting in motion a divine plan for the ultimate restitution of God’s relationship with all things and all people.
At this point, you are likely wondering why I am dropping all this theology on you. Bear with me and you’ll find out! Despite the clear revelation of God as redeemer of all, we humans do not live up to our vocation and obligation, as the creatures made in His image, to be Stewards of Creation. We pollute the very symbol of creation and life – namely, water – through dumping waste and fracking for energy. We dehydrate the earth, causing dry forests ripe for fires. We take more trees than we plant and desecrate the soil with chemicals and genetically modified organisms. Even as creation itself rebels from years of abuse with pandemics and powerful and volatile weather patterns, we refuse to reevaluate our role in the big picture and right the relationship. We have lost sight of Epiphany and perverted the meaning of the Incarnation by perceiving humanity as superior to creation, which we ultimately enslave rather than protect.
Therefore, as we celebrate this important Feast, we should take time to reflect on what we can do to be better Stewards of Creation. We can start small: for instance, by ensuring our online orders come in one shipment rather than many; by using reusable “things” in all aspects of life and using them as long as possible before replacing them; by using solar chargers and other zero emissions forms of energy; by driving less; by moderating consumption and avoiding private water sources. Then we can go big: for instance, by adding solar panels to our homes; by driving hybrid or electric vehicles; by insulating our walls and windows to decrease energy usage for heating and cooling; by planting as many trees as possible. Eventually, we can advocate for measures to expand clean energy and better protect God’s creation. All it takes to start is a slight modification of our habits.
When our worldview begins with the Incarnation, revealed at Christ’s Nativity and Baptism, and culminates in the Crucifixion and Resurrection, then we know that: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Then we appreciate that the least we can do with our lives is to sacrifice as much as possible, both individually and as collectively as a community and society for the sake of all of God’s Creation.
Nicholas Anton is with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and a board member of Creation Justice Ministries.
By Avery Davis Lamb
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
In the midst of Advent darkness, the voice of Mary breaks through, singing the Magnificat:
“My soul magnifies the Lord...He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
Surrounded by the darkness of empire and oppression, Mary trusted in the hope of Christ held in her womb. She believed that, despite the powers of the empire that lift the powerful and bring down the low, God’s justice would be birthed into the world. She had hope that God’s love would break into the world as human flesh. She had hope that the child held in her womb would bring about a new economy, one driven by love and justice rather than exploitation and empire.
Mary’s Magnificat is a candle of hope, luminating the darkness around her. Her song is a prophetic declaration of trust in the power of God to send away the oppressor and gather the oppressed under God’s wing.
She sees a world where the injustices of climate change are flipped; where those on the frontlines are protected and restored and those profiting off the destruction of Creation are brought down from their positions of power.
Mary sings a vision for what the world could be if the people of God gather together alongside Christ in the work of protecting, restoring, and sharing God’s Creation. She sees a world where the injustices of climate change are flipped; where those on the frontlines are protected and restored and those profiting off the destruction of Creation are brought down from their positions of power.
May our souls magnify the Lord and rejoice in God, who has become flesh to redeem and restore the ways we have broken creation. May we birth into the world new creation and new economies, driven by love and affection, casting out the darkness of empire and exploitation.
Subject: ‘America the Beautiful’ Plan Organizational Comment
Creation Justice Ministries
Federal Register #:
86 FR 59996
Creation Justice Ministries represents the creation care and environmental justice policies of major Christian denominations throughout the United States. We work in cooperation with 38 national faith bodies including Protestant denominations and Orthodox communions as well as regional faith groups, and congregants to protect and restore God's Creation.
Creation Justice Ministries educates, equips and mobilizes Christian communions/denominations, congregations and individuals to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.
Based on the priorities of its members, with a particular concern for the vulnerable and marginalized, we provide collaborative opportunities to build ecumenical community, guide people of faith and faith communities towards eco-justice transformations, and raise a collective witness in the public arena echoing Christ's call for just relationships among all of creation.
The goal of protecting and preserving 30 percent of public lands and waters by the year 2030 (“30x30”) is an important goal that we cannot miss. The climate crisis is ever worsening and we do not have the luxury of waiting any longer to rightly care for God’s creation. As Christians, we see the world as creation -- a gift from God that blesses us with life and health. We also have the responsibility to care for creation -- protecting, restoring, and rightly sharing the abundant natural world. We see 30x30 and the America the Beautiful campaign as more than a governmental or environmental document. We see it as a moral vision that would increase our flourishing with each other, our lands, and our waters.
The ocean is not only a place of majestic creation but a place of rejuvenation and climate solutions. In addition to the beautiful creatures that reside in the ocean there are so many ways the ocean can contribute to the fight against the climate crisis. Mangrove forests, tidal salt marshes, kelp forests, and seagrass meadows are all ecosystems that suck up carbon from the air and restore God’s creation.
Fully and highly protected marine protected areas are the most effective tool we have for preserving ocean
ecosystems. They provide areas where ocean life can recover without stress from extractive practices like
commercial fishing and oil/gas drilling. While large sections of ocean in the western Pacific are protected, we have neglected to protect marine areas in the Atlantic at the same rate. The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is the first strongly protected marine area in the Atlantic, and more places like this are needed in American waters to protect each ecosystem’s unique types of marine life. We do not have the luxury to wait longer to designate more marine protected areas. Our ocean life is stressed from climate change; many species are endangered and do not have much more time. Protecting 30 percent of America’s ocean with highly and fully protected marine protected areas will help restore the health of our ocean life and will enable us to rightly care for the earth and all of God’s creation.
Protecting lands is an important way to honor all who see their lands as sacred and to protect those sacred lands from extractive practices like mining and drilling. We applaud the administration’s decision to return Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments to their original size and encourage similar actions across the country. If protected from extraction, our public lands can be important tools for fighting climate change. It is important that the administration protects these places from extractive threats that are harming local communities and our global climate.
We support the United States’ national 30x30 goal and applaud the Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful report. We support the administration’s efforts to take an interdisciplinary and community-based approach to conserving 30 percent of our lands and waters. In particular, we are supportive of the following in the Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful report:
As NOAA and other agencies prepare the next America the Beautiful report and design the implementation of 30x30, we urge the following:
With gratitude and hope for God’s creation,
Creation Justice Ministries
By Ched Myers
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages."
In this reading from the Third Week of Advent, John the Baptizer invites the gathered crowd to “bear fruits worthy of repentance.”
In a reflection on the parallel passage in the Gospel of Matthew, Ched Myers offers context for John’s words and how we might bear fruits worthy of repentance in ourselves, our communities, and our churches. Watch Ched's reflection or read the transcript below.
"So in this one sharp, concise challenge from the mouth of John, the Baptist: "bear fruits worthy of repentance," we find this strong gospel invitation to: 1. Confirm our own baptism by 2. Engaging more deeply the roots of the pathologies around us and within us and throughout our churches, in order that 3. We will work to animate concrete efforts to turn our history around, through our collective discipleship of decolonization."
Watch the full webinar where Ched offered this reflection, "Truth, Healing & Conservation: Tracing the Roots of California Ecocide, Seeking Fruits of Repentance" here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nRMKzqVrtE
We have here a text from Matthew chapter three, which is a sharp, concise challenge that resonates with the work before us. John the Baptist is a wilderness prophet whose core message is to call people who in his day were laboring under colonial occupation for century Palestine, to repent through a ritual baptismal covenanting.
Here's what repentance is not, it's not private sorrow or anguish or shame feelings, which tend to animate either self-contempt or a desire for exoneration or cheap grace or protests of innocence. We can actually see this illustrated by the verses on either side of our focal verse. You see our verse eight are John's words, which are not directed to the crowds, but specifically to the authorities who have shown up to his wilderness revival. One might wonder whether they had shown up there in order to try to manage his popular movement as political operatives do.
John's words, calling them out in the previous verse are harsh. He calls them a brood of Vipers that is dangerous snakes, but those words are based upon what is revealed in the following verse. But verse nine, unmasks their defensive discourse. Apparently John has heard these leaders presume their own ethnic national entitlement to innocence. "We have Abraham as our ancestor!" they protest meaning that they don't need to be accountable for contradictions in their social behavior past or present. Obviously we American Christians have our own versions of presumed innocence or virtue or entitlement or other kinds of prophylactic, self-defenses. So John needs to clarify for them and for us what repentance does mean.
The word in Greek, metanoia, means to turn around: to turn around one's personal and political history in which one is entangled because it's moving in a destructive direction. So repentance involves concrete actions of direction change, trans-formation, repositioning, pivoting. In our context of the historic and continuing legacy of colonization, repentance as direction change necessarily involves both reparations and redistributive practices, communal and social. John's image of bearing fruit anticipates verse 10 in which he deploys an agricultural image (after all, he's talked mostly to peasants) of an ax, cutting down a tree that isn't bearing fruit. This ax is directed at the roots suggesting that we need a radical diagnosis, right? Radix means root.
This image invites us to muster the courage to examine the roots of our continuing history of settler colonialism in California, which is the very work before us in this webinar tonight. And to muster the conviction to move beyond rhetorical contrition or ritual apologies in order to experiment with concrete acts of reparation and redistribution. Because it's these kinds of fruits that are necessary for the healing of both those who have been marginalized by our colonial history and those of us who have been privileged by it. So in this one sharp, concise challenge from the mouth of John, the Baptist: "bear fruits worthy of repentance," we find this strong gospel invitation to: One, confirm our own baptism by two, engaging more deeply the roots of the pathologies around us and within us and throughout our churches, in order that three, we will work to animate concrete efforts to turn our history around, through our collective discipleship of decolonization. That is the work of this webinar tonight, and it's the best way to conserve our common future.
By Karyn Bigelow
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
Advent is a season to look toward the birth of Christ. The second Sunday of Advent is about preparing for the coming of Christ and asking for God’s healing. The arrival of Christ on Earth was a moment where creation gave witness to the hope of incarnation. In this season of preparation and waiting, we can pray for the healing of God’s creation--healing for all living things and healing in our relationships.
Christ’s arrival was the beginning of the path for us to be reconciled with God. Now more than ever we need to be healed and reconciled with the rest of creation. As we wait for Christ's ultimate return, we pray and act for the right relationship with each other and all living creatures. The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns put it best, “We are reminded [during Advent] that God’s reign of peace will involve all creation, a reign of right relationship between all created things. This means our preparation for his coming must involve repentance for the ways in which we have sinned against God, our neighbors, and against creation itself.”
This second week of Advent, we invite you to pray for creation and join in the work of reconciling as we and the rest of creation wait on Christ.
By Avery Davis Lamb
Today is the start of the Advent Season. Together, we wait in eager expectation for the coming of the one through whom all was created and in whom all creation is held together.
Advent is a season of darkness. As creation adapts to shorter days and longer nights, our hearts do too. It is a season when we are invited to reflect on the darkness around us, of which there is plenty. At the end of a year of record-breaking temperatures and climate disasters -- distress from the roaring of the sea and the waves -- we ought to reflect and remember the communities who are impacted by the creation crisis. We need to look with clear vision at the reality of destruction that is around us and the way God’s creation is crying out.
In the midst of empire and oppression, we hold onto hope that our redeemer might be born in the midst of other creatures.
And yet, in the midst of the darkness, we await a single flame. In the midst of empire and oppression, we hold onto hope that our redeemer might be born in the midst of other creatures. The hope that redemption is drawing near.
This advent season, we invite you to embrace the darkness. Feel the depth of despair that surrounds us. From that place, light a single flame and prepare your heart for the coming of Christ and the hope that possibly -- through our work and God’s grace -- this world might be redeemed and restored.
Creation Justice Ministries strongly supports the EPA’s proposed methane rules and urges EPA to strengthen the rules to maximize the benefits for public health and the environment.
On September 1, the three most notable world Christian leaders released a joint statement on the care for God’s people and planet. The three leaders were Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, of the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion. In their first statement together ever, these three leaders chose to focus on the most pressing material and spiritual challenge of our time: the ecological crisis. They bookend their statement with a line from the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 30, verse 19: “choose life, so that you and your children may live.”
In the face of a string of death-dealing decisions that have denied life and wellness to us and our children, we have the opportunity to choose life: for us and for our planet. Methane pollution is a death-dealing issue with profound impacts on the health of communities. The strongest possible standards to cut methane pollution are an obvious step to choosing life.
Methane pollution has a negative impact on the 30 percent of people in the U.S. who live near oil and gas production, with a disproportionate impact on low-income and communities of color. As Christians, we follow Jesus’ lead, caring first for those who society has deemed to be disposable. Under the current rules, too many communities are disposable, suffering the public health impacts that come along with methane pollution. Cutting methane pollution is a moral opportunity -- the chance to choose life for these communities.
I want to thank the EPA for using its legal authority to propose cuts in methane pollution under the Clean Air Act. Still, EPA's proposal does not go far enough to address pollution. In particular, EPA ought to ensure its new rules include the following:
These rules are necessary to protect our communities and our climate. The Biden administration has repeatedly committed itself to the plight of environmental and climate justice. Now is the time to live up to those commitments and supplement the EPA proposal to include tighter monitoring and enforcement of wells.
Creation Justice Ministries asks the EPA to strengthen the proposed methane rules to maximize the benefits for God’s people and planet. In other words, we are coming alongside our global religious leaders, the writers of Deuteronomy to ask, and the diverse history of Christian traditions to ask: "will you choose life, so that you and your children may live?"
The goal of protecting and preserving 30 percent of public lands and waters by the year 2030 (“30x30”) is an important goal that we cannot miss. The climate crisis is ever worsening and we do not have the luxury of waiting any longer to rightly care for God’s creation. As Christians, we see the world as creation -- a gift from God that blesses us with life and health. We also have the responsibility to care for creation -- protecting, restoring, and rightly sharing the abundant natural world. We see 30x30 and the America the Beautiful report as more than a governmental or environmental document. We see it as a moral vision that would increase our flourishing with each other, our lands, and our waters.
Public lands are the literal grounds of our American identity. Our national parks and forests, dazzling wildlife refuges, and thousands of scenic trails embody America both at home and abroad. While their creation is often rooted in the unjust removal of Native Americans who called them home for millennia, public lands today represent refuge from the routines of daily life and celebrate what collaborative management can achieve. Now, in the face of climate change, the role of public lands has again evolved — this time from simply a refuge to the more complicated role of both a bulwark against climate change and a potential victim to climate change in need of defense.
Faith and spirituality have sustained, enhanced, and defined America’s public lands for centuries. Communities of faith must consider the central role of public lands stewardship in our abilities to love and care for our families, our neighbors, and God’s creation. Caring for public lands means caring for healthy communities, stable livelihoods and economies, resilient food systems, and bountiful landscapes that show God’s grace to each successive generation. Public lands also unite us with those of all political and religious walks, as clean water, breathable air, and fruitful soil are universal values that we all further by protecting them.
Faith and spirituality have sustained, enhanced, and defined America’s public lands for centuries.
As stated above, Native Americans are the original and rightful owners of this country, and they have been the best and longest stewards of all its natural features. Native American religions and cultures have understood and treasured for millennia the sacred interconnectedness between humans and the ecosystems that surround us. And Native American sacred sites have also been the target of political and corporate exploitation, as was most recently illustrated by the previous administration’s attempts to open up the Bears Ears Monument to mining. Working to protect Bears Ears for the benefit of all future generations, the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe founded the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and succeeded in staving off threatened devastation to one of our nation’s most integral landscapes.
Advocacy to protect Bears Ears was a success both in outcome and in process -- the interfaith effort brought Christian, Jewish, and Native American Tribes together to reject both the desecration of a national treasure and the racism of violating Native American rights and values. This support extended beyond Bears Ears to all national monuments under threat, including Cascade-Siskiyou, Gold Butte, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Katahdin Woods and Waters, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, Pacific Remote Islands, Rio Grande Del Norte, and Rose Atoll National Monuments.
The sacredness of nature is a core tenet of Judeo-Christian culture, as well - not just one adopted in the interest of allyship. As the Book of Psalms declares, “[T]the trees of the forest will sing for joy," and "[i]n God’s hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to God.” The famous Christian thinker and preacher Cotton Mather declared in 1721, “The Lord by Wisdom has founded the Earth[,]” and the Passionist priest, naturalist, and historian Thomas Berry taught over two centuries later that, “Reverence will be total or it will not be at all.” We either accept that this Earth is divine creation and live accordingly, or we reject the truth of God’s goodness and imprint on all that surrounds us. More recently, in just the past twenty years, almost all major Christian denominations have called for the restoration and protection of America’s lands to nourish ecosystems, economies, and communities. People of faith have been powerful protectors of our greatest public treasures, from the red rock wilderness and Grand Canyon to the Everglades and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
We either accept that this Earth is divine creation and live accordingly, or we reject the truth of God’s goodness and imprint on all that surrounds us.
Climate change demands swift and strategic action to restore and protect our most valuable ecosystems and ensure equitable access to places of refuge. Scientists are clear that the current climate crisis threatens not just humans, but all living beings. The diversity of God’s creation is under siege due to changes on all fronts, from temperatures to sea level, from extreme weather to wildfires. Public lands can both mitigate the effects of climate change and facilitate adaptation to the effects that cannot be avoided.
A comprehensive climate plan for public lands is the only way to achieve the outcomes we need on the timescale by which we need them. The Build Back Better plan by the Biden-Harris Administration has several components that are critical to a successful and just path forward that protects both the future and the heritage of all Americans. Running through each of these core components are the values of public engagement, fair apportionment of costs and benefits, and compassionate economies that secure both health and profit for impacted communities.
A comprehensive climate plan for public lands is the only way to achieve the outcomes we need on the timescale by which we need them.
The Civilian Climate Corps would create jobs by employing Americans to restore public lands and waters, enhance community resilience, improve access to recreation, address the changing climate, and more. This simple concept underscores the opportunities that come with swift and comprehensive action on climate change — we can make sure that communities are themselves part of the solution, rather than waiting around for outside assistance.
A few simple tweaks to how we regulate fossil fuels would likewise yield massive benefits to the American public and public lands by making our economy more efficient and sustainable. Right now, the American taxpayer is footing the bill for cleaning up abandoned oil and gas wells - over 60,000 of which have already been recorded across the country. These wells are major environmental hazards that contaminate groundwater and emit the powerful greenhouse gas methane, and funding for clean-up has fallen far short. Congress can fix this by employing Americans to close existing wells and requiring private companies to finance well clean-up moving forward - again benefitting communities and public lands by centering justice.
Finally, Congress must guarantee the public a seat at the table when government decisions are made and public funds spent. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is the law that exists for just such a purpose, and it requires robust funding to actually work. Meaningful public participation means access to full information about a proposed project and its potential impacts and timely opportunities to comment on the options presented. Unless Congress fully funds NEPA, it is an empty promise that checks the box of public engagement without allowing us to actually steward our public lands.
The coming weeks are crucial to the success of this ambitious and essential agenda. Congress will decide whether to turn the latter concepts into law, and if so, at what level to fund them. Far from being weedy decisions by bureaucrats that don’t affect the average American, Congress’s action on the multi-trillion dollar proposal before it will largely determine how much human suffering we can prevent this century. The Biden-Harris Administration has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that climate is a fundamental factor in all government decisions made concerning public lands, and that public lands are likewise a fundamental tool in the government’s approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change.
At our best, we as people of faith stand with our spiritual human family from all religions, cultures, and traditions to steward what we all know is truly sacred. When we recognize our public lands as worthy of reverence and our responsibility for stewarding them as shared, we are answering God’s call. You can continue this sacred tradition by telling Congress that public lands are an invaluable gift that we must preserve on moral grounds, and whose survival is now inextricably linked to our own.
About this Blog
This blog shares the activities of Creation Justice Ministries. We educate and equip Christians to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.