Sunday, October 16, 2011

Clergy opposed to Keystone XL pipeline

Realizing that our reasons for opposing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline rested on Christ's commandment to love God and our neighbors, and thinking that this viewpoint should be part of the wider discussion about this issue, Fr. Don Huber and I wrote this statement and sent it around to other clergy in the Diocese of Nebraska that we thought might have an interest in the issue. It has been published in the Lincoln Journal Star, the Grand Island Independent, and the Alliance Times Herald.

As clergy of the Episcopal Church in Nebraska, we oppose construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline which would transport bitumen from the Athabasca Tar Sands to refineries in Texas. Our concerns about this project are rooted in Christ’s commandment to love our neighbors and in our belief that creation care is a foundation of local and global love of others, ourselves and our creator.

The commandment to love our neighbors requires considering the effects of our actions on others and on ourselves. Scripture calls us to be the tillers and caretakers of the earth, the stewards of creation. Our tradition as articulated in The Book of Common Prayer teaches us that we are fellow workers in God’s creation, that we need to use the resources of nature wisely and reverently so that generations yet to come may have life, breath and cause to continue praising God for the bounteous gifts of creation. Using our resources wisely and reverently means acknowledging and remembering that they come from God and that our use of them is not solely for our own immediate gain, but for the good of all of creation.

The mining of the Athabasca Tar Sands has already brought disaster to the First Nations people who have lived along the Athabasca River for generations. Reduced river flow and contamination of the water and land has impacted fishing and hunting and people’s health. The area being mined is in the Boreal Forest, a fragile and essential habitat for migratory birds and an ecosystem whose continued ability to function as the largest carbon storage area on earth is essential to mitigation of global warming which causes climate change.

Globally the impact of processing and burning the oil extracted from the Athabasca Tar Sands will further accelerate climate change. The world is already experiencing violent storms, record heat, flooding and droughts as greenhouse gas emissions have reached a critical level. Surely a project that would accelerate greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting acceleration of global warming does not serve God and God’s purposes for humankind and the rest of creation.

As Nebraskans and others voice our thoughts on the pipeline to the United States State Department, the political question being asked is: Is the proposed pipeline in the national interest? This is an important question, but we believe that we have a greater obligation to ask some moral questions. The moral questions go further than the political question, asking: Does the proposed pipeline harm or hurt humanity as a whole? Is building it consistent with the wise and reverent use of creation? If we as a people and a nation agree to the building of this pipeline, will we be acting as good stewards of creation? We believe the answer to these moral questions is no. We believe we cannot further endanger the earth’s precious fresh water reserves; we cannot further endanger water which supports the crops that feed our nation and the world; we cannot feed our greedy desire for cheap oil at the expense of our and others’ health and food and our children’s future.

Locally, the possibility of a pipeline leak over the Ogallala Aquifer risks devastating consequences for people over a vast area of our state who depend on the aquifer for drinking water. This concern is well-founded because of the history of leaks in such pipelines and is shared by us, our Governor and our Senators. A foreign company coming into our state and appropriating land to build this pipeline that endangers the people of the state is a great injustice to those who depend on the land and water for their livelihoods and their very lives. It is at its best risky business and at its worst morally reprehensible.

The Keystone XL pipeline will provide some immediate gain for some people. We must conclude, though, that while in the short-run it may serve financial gain for a few, it doesn’t serve the long term health and well being of humanity and creation. Given this choice, we oppose the granting of a permit for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and call on others to join us in choosing life and health.


These are the names of the sponsors as listed on October 5:

Deacon Betsy Blake Bennett, St. Stephen’s, Grand Island

The Rev. Don Huber, St. Matthew’s, Alliance and Calvary, Hyannis

Deacon John Adam, St. Matthew’s, Alliance and Calvary, Hyannis

The Rev. Scott Barker, Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska

The Rev. Carol Ann Bullard, Holy Apostles, Mitchell

The Rev. Jason Emerson, Church of the Resurrection, Omaha

The Rev. William Graham, St. Mary’s – Holly, Rushville and St. Joseph’s, Mullen

Deacon Christine Grosh, Trinity Memorial Church, Crete

Deacon Cheryl Harris, St. Matthew's Church, Alliance and Calvary, Hyannis

Deacon Nancy W. Huston, St. Martha’s Church, Papillion

Deacon Colleen Lewis, St. Luke’s, Kearney

The Rev. Gretchen R. Naugle, Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska

The Rev. Jeffrey S.F. Nelson, Church of Our Savior, North Platte

The Rev. Larry Parrish, St. Thomas, Falls City

The Rev. Dr. Charles A. Peek, St. Stephen’s, Grand Island

The Rev. Chris Plantz, St. Hilda’s, Kimball; St. Paul’s, Ogallala; St. George’s, Oshkosh; Good Shepherd, Harrisburg

Deacon Kim Roberts, St Martin of Tours, Omaha

The Rev. Ellie Thober, Grace Church, Columbus

The Rev. Ruth Tomlinson, St. David's, Lincoln

Archdeacon James Visger, Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska

The Rev. Judi A. Yeates, Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska

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