Creation Justice Ministries Celebrates the Introduction of Landmark “Environmental Justice for All Act”
February 27, 2020
Creation Justice Ministries applauds the historic Environmental Justice for All Act put forward today by US House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.).
We know that we are entrusted by God with care for creation and love of neighbor. The transformative change envisioned by this bill is a crucial step forward as a nation to better embody and live out both principles. We especially affirm the following aspects of the Environmental Justice for All Act:
Creation Justice Ministries affirms the dignity of all God’s children, and therefore we lift up our moral imperative to seek environmental justice for people of every race, economic status, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious affiliation.
Creation Justice Ministries represents the creation care policies of 38 Christian traditions, including Baptist, mainline Protestant, Historically Black, Peace, and Orthodox communions. Learn more at www.creationjustice.org
Contact: Shantha Ready Alonso, Executive Director 202-618-2501 (mobile)
Testimony by Bishop Carroll A. Baltimore on Proposed Rollbacks to the National Environmental Policy Act
Good evening, members of the Council on Environmental Quality.
My name is Bishop Carroll Baltimore. I am Vice President of Creation Justice Ministries representing the policies of more than two dozen Christian denominations that join together to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation. Through our membership, we serve approximately 100,000 churches and 35 million people.
We have grave moral concerns regarding potential changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Proposed revisions to NEPA are inconsistent with NEPA’s central purposes. Among those purposes are three that people of faith hold with special regard:
These purposes of NEPA mirror Christian community values embodied in Jesus’ Great Commandment: to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
By loving our Creator God, we show respect for what God has made. We are entrusted with the care of creation for our short lifetimes, and to ensure the gifts of God’s creation can sustain life for our children and generations to come. NEPA helps our society evaluate how development will impact God’s creation.
The NEPA process gives us, on a societal level, an opportunity to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It requires project planners to listen to those who could be most impacted by a proposed project, including the most vulnerable. If a project will hurt neighbors by making it hard for them to breathe, drink safe water, grow food, catch fish, or freely practice their religious faith, it is our shared moral responsibility to show love for our neighbors by preventing harm from a project.
As Christian communities, we often find ourselves on the front lines of response to emergencies. We rally resources with compassion to respond to devastating circumstances. Some of the most devastating emergencies in our recent ministry are related to short-circuiting or undermining of the NEPA process.
April 20, 2020 will mark 10 years since the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. BP and other oil companies developing offshore drilling sites in the Gulf of Mexico were exempt from standard NEPA planning processes. In its wake, we ministered to fisherman families not only seeking new ways to support themselves, but also devastated by the loss of identity after generations of family business out in the midst of God’s magnificent marine creation in the Gulf. Now, in addition to the Trump Administration’s proposals to expand offshore drilling, this proposal to weaken NEPA means offshore drilling can proceed with little to no review. It would limit the information the government has to evaluate the impact on endangered marine mammals, coral reefs, and coastal ecosystem protection and restoration. Ten years later, have we learned nothing from the suffering from Deepwater Horizon?
We have also witnessed the devastation of Native American burial grounds and sacred sites as a result of an ignored or undermined NEPA process. As Christians, we stand with people of all spiritual traditions to defend their religious freedom. Right now, the wall construction area on the US-Mexico border is a virtually lawless zone where NEPA requirements are waived. As a result, the Tohono O’Odham Tribe burial grounds are being bulldozed this month. Chairman of the Tohono O’Odham Ned Norris said, “There is no difference between what they have done here and imagine someone coming with a bulldozer through Arlington National Cemetery.” Additional sites sacred to the tribe are under immediate threat as construction continues. Some religious leader delegations have gone to the border to witness this tragedy, and call on Congress to intervene. This feels like a repetition of just a few years ago, when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe watched with horror as their sacred burial grounds were bulldozed to make way for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Faith communities organized to send camp supplies such as firewood, and provide peaceful public support. Just when we thought the NEPA worked to prevent any further damage from proceeding to the river they depend on for bodily and spiritual sustenance, the Trump Administration overrode the result. We were deeply troubled by the expedited review process to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and its opening for leasing. The coastal plain of the Refuge, which is the site of the Gwich’in creation story, and is what they call “the sacred place where life begins.”
If we are to follow Jesus’ Great Commandment, we need structures in place to respect what God has made and to show our neighbors love. Any proposed NEPA changes should enhance our ability as a society to live in the spirit of Jesus’ Great Commandment, not undermine, expedite, or exempt anyone from it.
By: Bishop David Bailey, Episcopal Diocese of Navajoland
While it feels more and more like we’re living in important and historic times, it can also be challenging to keep pace with today’s news. For instance, in light of other scandals roiling Washington, parts of President Trump’s recently-released budget proposal have flown under the radar. Yet, we should pay close attention to these details. They could have huge implications for people across the United States and the world – including the Gwich’in people of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
For tens of thousands of years, the Gwich’in have been faithful stewards to the Arctic Refuge’s Coastal Plains region. For all those millennia, they’ve relied on the Porcupine caribou that migrate there each spring – both for sustenance and for their spiritual well-being. The caribou and the Gwich’in are so intertwined that their tradition holds that they share a piece of each other’s heart.
President Trump’s budget proposal is the latest in a long line that have tried to open the Gwich’in’s home to petrochemical companies that would exploit the potential oil and gas that might lie beneath the earth. There’s no certainty that the profits these companies seek can be found. However, studies have shown conclusively that discovering those answers would permanently disrupt the caribou’s migration, dwindle their population, and ruin the only way of life the Gwich’in have ever known.
The Episcopal Church has long been opposed to exploiting the Arctic Refuge. Our concern for and stewardship of God’s creation calls us to this position. What’s more, 9 of 10 Gwich’in are my brothers and sisters, of one Body of Christ, (indeed, of one shared heart) in the Episcopal Church. They know the refuge’s future is their future, and we believe the Gwich’in’s future is ours. That’s why I urge our Senators to reject President Trump’s proposal to exploit these lands and ruin my Gwich’in brothers’ and sisters’ home.
Of course, the caribou and the Gwich’in aren’t alone on the coastal plains. It’s also the migratory home for millions of birds from across the country – including Arizona – and around the world. It’s one of the few places where America’s polar bears give birth to their young. This pristine, untouched wilderness is among the last of its kind in the country, or on the planet. You can even drink fresh, clear water from its streams. All of that is in peril again, and we owe it to our Gwich’in neighbors and to ourselves to stand firm.
In the nearly six decades since the Arctic Refuge was first designated, the Gwich’in have beaten back multiple attempts to ruin what they call “the sacred place where life begins.” Washington wasn’t immune to scandal then, and it certainly isn’t now. So, we can’t let the latest headline distract us from treating our neighbors with the same dignity and respect with which we wish to be treated – perhaps, even, to love them as we love ourselves.
If someone was coming to ruin my way of life, or to destroy our community’s homes, I know my fellow Arizonans would stand by us. I ask you now to stand with my Gwich’in brothers and sisters, and tell Senators connected to Navajoland, including Senators McCain and Flake of Arizona, Senators Udall and Heinrich of New Mexico, as well as Senators Hatch and Lee of Utah, to reject President Trump’s plan to exploit the Arctic Refuge. Long after the latest scandals have subsided in Washington, the caribou will return to the plains region and the Gwich’in’s age-old rhythms will begin anew – but only if we stand up and speak out now for our brothers and sisters, and the sacred place where their life begins.
The Rt. Rev. David Bailey is the Episcopal Bishop of Navajoland. Prior to his 2010 arrival in Navajoland, Bishop Bailey was the Rector of St. Stephens Parish in Phoenix, AZ. There he developed a 60-bed retreat center which, at times, would provide free shelter to Navajo families whom would travel to the city for advanced medical treatment. He chaired Native American Ministries in the Diocese of Arizona, held a position in Coalition 14 and thus created a bond with the Episcopal Church in Navajoland. In 1994, upon the Presiding Bishop’s Appointment, Dave assisted Navajoland Bishop Steven Plummer in an administrative capacity. He would work with Bishop Plummer for 5-6 weeks a year. In his down time, Bishop Dave’s interests include reading, golf, hiking and participating in 5k’s.
June 2, 2017 was a day to remember of round-table meetings with government decision-makers and Indigenous leaders from Christian communities. The aim of the meetings was to bring Indigenous and Christian perspectives in support of Bears Ears National Monument and the Bears Ears Commission, and deliver a letter they all helped circulate, calling on Secretary Zinke to protect Bears Ears National Monument.
The day began with prayers and inspirational talks for guidance and direction, to reflect God’s will and voice. These voices stand firm to the premise that diversity and inclusion are central to environmental integrity, preservation, and justice, with the unique responsibility of humans in caring all God’s creation.
Leaders in attendance were: Rev. Richard Silversmith, a Navajo Pastor of the Indian Christian Center in Denver; Ms. Loni Romo and Jackie Davis-Cawelti, Pyramid Lake Paiute tribal members and active lay leaders at St. Mary of the Lake Episcopal Church, Rev. Judy Wellington an Akilmel O’odham and Dakota Sioux Minister for Native American Ministries in the Presbytery of the Southwest, and Mark Charles, a Navajo activist, speaker, and writer, and Dee Ann Manatowa, daughter of the late chief of the Sac and Fox Nation as well as Environmental Justice Fellow for Creation Justice Ministries.
Loni Romo described her trip with her mother Jackie Davis-Cawelti: "Over the past weekend my mom and I were invited to D.C. to advocate for the Bears Ears Monument. We went as Indigenous Christian peoples. It was a whirlwind trip but was incredible. It was my first trip, I couldn't imagine doing it any other way. We had meetings set up with the acting Director of Bureau of Land Management, Assistant Director for National Conservation Lands and Community Partnerships and a lady from the Secretary's office. We moved on to the Department of Interior Office of External and Intergovernmental Relations. We stopped in at our State of Nevada Senator's offices and met with Cortez-Masto's staff. Any spare time we spent it sight-seeing: museums, monuments and even joined a protest. I am grateful for the opportunity, meeting new people to learn from and especially to have our voices heard."
Rev. Judy Wellington said of the experience, "I am thankful to Creation Justice Ministries who made it possible for a group of us from different native nations to come to DC to advocate for keeping Bears Ears Monument. Together with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition of Utah, we join our voices with sisters and brothers who care about preservation of the land."
Pastor Richard Silversmith said upon his return home, "I am hopeful that meeting with the decision-makers in person had a more immediate impact and leaves a longer-lasting impression than a letter. I think collectively we can help raises a shared witness in the public arena echoing Christ's call for just relationships among all of Creation."
Mark Charles reflected, "It was a great opportunity to challenge the paradigm of our government leaders, representatives and officials by speaking to them, not as oppressed minorities or even as concerned constituents, but rather as the indigenous hosts of this land. I loved it. Creator Ahé'hee."
Today, President Donald Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum to the US Army Corps of Engineers directing them to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline permitting process to the extent allowed under law. Based on previous studies by the Corps, current interpretation of the law includes: respecting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s treaty rights, a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and careful consideration of alternative routes.
Nothing in the Memorandum addresses these considerations, and the easement to undertake Dakota Access Pipeline construction under the Missouri River has not been granted. Yet, the Memorandum’s release on President Trump’s fifth day in office invites profound concern for religious communities, which have heavily invested in solidarity efforts to protect Standing Rock Sioux treaty lands and water.
United Church of Christ Environmental Justice Minister Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt said the Trump Administration’s actions today “have revived the dinosaurs of an obsolete and destructive energy system.” He went on to urge Christians everywhere, “If you care about the people of Standing Rock, if you care about the world we are giving to our children and grandchildren, then now is the time to act. Corporate greed must no longer trample over love of neighbor and love of those dear to us.”
Creation Justice Ministries Executive Director Shantha Ready Alonso responded to the news: “This was a brash decision by an Administration that claims to care about clean water and local decision-making power. I hope and pray this Memorandum does not set the tone for the Trump Administration’s posture toward matters of environmental justice and indigenous rights. As Christians, we are committed to responsible stewardship of the gifts of God’s creation, and to respecting the sovereignty of our indigenous brothers and sisters. We call on the Administration to respect indigenous rights and the safety of drinking water for millions.
Locally, as they have consistently done from the beginning of their resistance to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on their treaty lands, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are maintaining a posture of strength through prayer.
Episcopal Deacon Brandon Mauai of Standing Rock said of today’s announcement, “We need to pray that every person in a decision-making position takes into consideration that authorizing this pipeline will harm the people of Standing Rock. We continue to pray for all leadership, including our President Donald Trump. We pray we can reach a conclusion that will not harm any life, and the Church takes the side of creation and the people.”
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
The National Council of Churches of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) and Creation Justice Ministries join in expressing their deep appreciation to President Obama and the Army Corps of Engineers for the historic decision to not grant an easement for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) through the contested site in Standing Rock, North Dakota.
As previously planned, the DAPL would have transversed sovereign Sioux land considered by the Sioux to be sacred, and has already damaged tribal burial grounds. DAPL would have been placed underneath the Missouri River, potentially polluting drinking water and endangering the health of millions downstream.
Creation Justice Ministries Executive Director Shantha Ready Alonso said of the decision, “We are grateful to the Administration for this decision. The belief system that a company can take over indigenous land for profit can be traced back to the Doctrine of Discovery -- 15th century papal teachings which have historically been used to justify land theft, colonization, and genocide. Standing with the Standing Rock Sioux to defend their sacred land has been an important step by Christians to reject the Doctrine of Discovery and to rectify injustice. As Christians, we have a moral responsibility to stand with indigenous peoples to protect their sovereignty, and God’s creation.”
Creation Justice Ministries and the NCC celebrate the ways in which faith leaders have stood alongside the Water Protectors of the Standing Rock Sioux in this struggle. Member communions of NCC and Creation Justice Ministries have sent delegations to stand in solidarity with the Sioux as they have strongly opposed the pipeline which would have run across their sacred lands. The organizations’ leaders hope this will be seen as a turning point in the troubled relationship Native Americans and Christians have often shared throughout history, that Christians will stand on the side of justice.
“This is an incredible development,” said NCC President and General Secretary Jim Winkler. “I believe the churches that stood with the Sioux made a difference. I’m deeply grateful for NCC member communions who saw Standing Rock as a place to stand for justice. Obviously, we hope this decision will not be reversed in the coming administration.”
We join in celebrating this moment in which the words and actions of protest have been heard by our governmental leaders. We pray that additional strides toward justice and care for the environment will be spurred by the events of the past months at Standing Rock.
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 creationjustice.org.
Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC’s 38 member communions – from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches – include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.
At November 2016 clergy gathering at Standing Rock, with more than 530 participants, crowd conducts a ceremony to burn the Doctrine of Discovery.
Photo credit: United Church of Christ
Christian Communities Support Standing Rock Sioux Protection of Land and Water from Dakota Access Pipeline
Christian communities are supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's actions to protect God's creation, as well as spiritually and culturally significant places, from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Here is a roundup of Christian community solidarity actions. This blog will be updated as more information comes in, and if you have tips for us, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
American Baptist Home Mission Societies
Baltimore Yearly Meeting
Dallas Friends Meeting
Disciples Justice Action Network (DJAN)
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton
Friends Committee on National Legislation
General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
United Methodist Dakotas-Minnesota Conference Bishop Bruce R. Ough
United Methodist Western Jurisdiction Officers
Interfaith Statement of Support for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Mennonite Central Committee
Miami Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
Orthodox-Catholic Church of America
Pax Christi USA
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Presbyterian Church (USA) FAQ Page on #NoDAPL
Quaker Earthcare Witness
United Church of Christ
World Student Christian Federation (North American Region)
York (PA) Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
Young Evangelicals for Climate Action
Young Evangelicals for Climate Action Letter to POTUS
Christian Community News Clips
Religious Leaders Stand in Solidarity With Protesters at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation | PBS - Religion and Ethics Newsweekly (12.9.16)
Updated: Standing Rock Ministry Stands Resolutely with Sioux Nations's Cause | Episcopal News Service (11.28.16)
Tear Gas and Water Cannons Used on Hundredso of Activists at Standing Rock: Witnesses Report 200 Injuries in Sub-Freezing Temperatures | Presbyterian Misionary Agency (11.18.16)
The Church and the Dakota Pipeline Protests: Standing Rock is a New Turn in Christian Ties with Native Americans |The Economist (11.27.16)
At Standing Rock and Beyond: What is to be Done? | New York Times (11.25.16)
From Blacksmiths to Lawyers, Professional Servies are in Demand at Standing Rock: Presbyterian Delegation Gets Overview of Camp Operations | Presbyterian Misionary Agency (11.25.16)
Water Protectors at Standing Rock Prepare for Brutal Winter | Presbyterian Misionary Agency (11.18.16)
Standing With Standing Rock: Water Protecters and the New Selma | National Council of the Churches of the Christ in the USA (11.17.16)
Standing with Standing Rock by Listening First, Acting Second | United Church of Christ (11.17.16)
Local Clergy Joined in Vigil at North Dakota Pipeline Site | South Bend Tribune (11.16.16)
500 Religious Leaders Joined Native Americans in Protest and Prayer at Standing Rock | UpWorthy (11.8.16)
Eco-justice at Stake for Standing Rock People in USA | World Council of Churches (11.7.16)
Two PC (USA) Protestors Arrested at North Dakota Capitol | Presbyterian Mission Agency (11.7.16)
Presbyterian Center holds prayer vigil in solidarity with Standing Rock protests | Presbyterian Mission Agency (11.7.16)
Two PC(USA) protestors arrested at North Dakota capitol | Presbyterian Mission Agency (11.7.16)
Clergy Action in Solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux: A Report from Members of Hudson River Presbytery on November 3, 2017 | Hudson River Presbytery 11.4.16
We Are Our Own Medicine: Report From AFSC Delegation to Standing Rock | American Friends Service Committee (11.4.16)
Commentary: Follow Me | United Church of Christ (11.4.16)
PC(USA) Faith Leaders Join Standing Rock Solidarity Gathering | Presbyterian Mission Agency (11.4.16)
Clergy From Across U.S. to Stand in Solidarity with Indigenous ‘Water Protectors’ at Standing Rock | Baptist News Global (11.3.16)
Arrests made following rally of protesters, clergy at Capitol | The Bismarck Tribune (11.3.16)
Video: Presiding Bishop Calls for Prayer for Standing Rock Sioux Nation | Episcopal News Service (11.3.16)
Call is Issued for Episcopalians to Stand with Standing Rock on November 3 | Episcopal News Serve (11.3.16)
Clergy Gather to Add Solidarity to Standing Rock Water Protectors | Presbyterian Mission Agency (11.2.16)
Franciscans Join with 400 Faith Leaders at Standing Rock | Franciscan Action Network (11.2.16)
Mercy Joins Standing Rock to Protect Our Earth | Sisters of Mercy (11.2.16)
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Bruce Curry Calls on Episcopalians to Pray for Standing Rock | Episcopal News Service (11.2.16)
United Church Funds Hosts Standing Rock Tribal Chair as Investors Look to Offer Support | United Church of Christ News (10.31.16)
An Orthodox Christian Response to Standing Rock | kaleeg.com (10.31.16)
Standing in Solidarity with Standing Rock | Presbyterian News Service (10.30.16)
Wyomingites Make Trip to Support North Dakota Protests | Wyoming Tribune (10.29.16)
Episcopal Church Called to a 'Powerful Opportunity to Exercise Our Shared Baptismal Ministry" | The Episcopal Church (10.28.16)
Episcopal Church Executive Committee Stands with Standing Rock | The Episcopal Church (10.22.16)
Churches Uniting in Christ issue statement re: Standing Rock Sioux | Disciples News Service (10.21.16)
Churches Uniting in Christ Stand with the Standing Rock Sioux | CUIC (10.21.16)
UCC Clergy Support Standing Rock Locally, and in Montana | United Church News Service (10.11.16)
Native American Groups Call Presbyterians to Prayer for the Standing Rock Sioux | Presbyterian News Service (10.4.16)
My Visit to the Camp of Sacred Stones at Standing Rock Reservation | Rev. Paul Henschen, Presbyterians for Earth Care blog (10.3.16)
Oil Transport in Valley a Reason to Repent | Rev. Donna Scharper in the Poughkeepsie Journal (9.29.16)
"Standing Rock" and "The Golden Rule": A Reflection on Sunday's Gospel Reading | Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis, blog of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (9.28.16)
Image Gallery: Bishop Visits Standing Rock Sioux Reservation | Episcopal News Service (9.26.16)
#NativeLivesMatter: Protecting the Water at Standing Rock | United Church of Christ (9.15.16)
The Fire at Standing Rock: Three Lessons for Continued Struggle | Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt, The New Sacred United Church of Christ blog (9.22.16)
United Methodists stand with Standing Rock| Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas Conference UMC (9.12.16)
Despite Judge's Ruling Against Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Federal Agencies Halt Pipeline Construction | Episcopal News Service (9.9.16)
Government Steps in, Temporarily Halts Construction on Pipeline | United Church of Christ News (9.9.16)
Presbytery of the Northern Plains Sends Support to North Dakota | Presbyterian News Service (9.8.16)
Faith Leaders Converge at Standing Rock against Dakota Access Pipeline | United Church of Christ News (9.7.16)
Bound in Love: Lessons from Standing Rock | Sojourners (9.6.16)
Lummi Totem Poll Ceremony in Sandpoint, Idaho, On to Standing Rock | Presbyterian News Service (9.2.16)
United Methodists, Native Americans Oppose Pipeline | United Methodist News Service (9.1.16)
Presbyterians Join Lummi Nation to Fight Fossil Fuel Projects in the Northwest | Presbyterian News Service (8.30.16)
Opinion: Standing with American Indians to Protect Our World From Destruction | Rev. Jared C. Cramer, Grand Haven Tribune (8.29.16)
Standing with the Standing Rock Sioux | Avery Davis, Sojourners (8.26.16)
Episcopalians Invited to Support Anti-Pipeline Protestors | Episcopal News Service (8.26.16)
Efforts to Stop Dakota Access Pipeline Move to DC District Court | United Church of Christ (8.25.16)
Some Social Media Highlights
The situation at Standing Rock is constantly changing. At any given time, check with the websites and Facebook pages of the different camps to determine whether you’re able to provide the specific kinds of support most needed: