From Jean Ritchie’s “Black Waters” lyrics about the environment in Appalachia to hazardous waste disposal occuring primarily African-American communities, environmental justice concerns are part of our faithful concerns for our world to do better and to be better. Presbyterian teens are discussing environmental racism, mission co-workers are working with sisters and brothers around the world impacted by environmental injustice (such as communities facing environmental risk in Peru), and Presbyterians are continuing to learn from and with communities being impacted domestically. While General Assembly passed policy on environmental justice in 1995, issues today are just as real as they have been for decades.
On Friday, Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson III, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in conjunction with the Rev. Irvin Porter, associate in the Office of Native American Intercultural Congregational Support, issued a statement support of the Standing Rock Sioux who are protesting the citing of the Dakota Access pipeline, which crosses treaty lines, poses a risk to the Missouri River, and has not had an environmental or archeological review or approval.
In the Pacific Northwest, Presbyterians are standing with and learning from the Lummi Nation who continue to challenge the oil and coal train proposed terminals in their region which threaten native communities in the Pacific Northwest. Right now, Presbyterians are standing with Lummi who are on a totem pole journey, to educate about the problem of coal and oil trains and proposed export terminals. In May of 2015, in response to a General Assembly overture on coal trains, Rev. Holly Hallman read a letter from Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons supporting the Lummi challenge to the Cherry Point terminal.
As we seek to be faithful to God’s call to care for God’s wondrous creation, we stand with all people in all places as we seek well-being for all communities on a thriving, bountiful earth. May we listen, live in solidarity, task necessary action, and pray as people share their experiences and voices and witness for environmental justice.