A few highlights from the United Methodist Church’s General Convention meeting held last week in Portland, OR. This is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church, which convenes once every four years.The conference can revise church law, as well as adopt resolutions on current moral, social, public policy and economic issues. It also approves plans and budgets for church-wide programs.
There was lots of coverage on the sexuality debates (Final: “We’ll talk about this later.”) and they voted on a new hymnal, increased the budget, voted to keep fossil fuels in their investment portfolios (Shame on you! You’re Bill McKibben’s denomination!), and are in the midst of learning how to understand themselves as a global church with significant expansion and leadership in Africa.
But here are 5 items that I found particularly heartening:
What happens to a community when there is no safe water supply? Look at Flint, Michigan. The lead that has leached from pipes there remains an ongoing concern. “The problem with Flint right now is this is going to be a generation’s long issue,” says Michigan Area Bishop Deborah Kiesey. “The children of Flint, particularly, are the ones most affected by this poor water.”
From Michigan to Liberia, and Portland to Philippines and Honduras, poor and marginalized communities are struggling with water contamination that threatens everyday life. United Methodist Women called attention to their plight during a lunchtime rally on May 16 at the Oregon Convention Center plaza. The event was part of the UMW Day celebration during the United Methodist General Conference.
“We call upon our seminaries and United Methodist-related
colleges and universities to offer courses on alternatives to violence and to sponsor local community initiatives to diffuse ethnic and religious conflict. We also call on our seminaries to encourage the study of the theological roots of violence and of Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence nonresistance and resisting evil; and …”
On Jan, 20,2016, people from Pennsylvania were forced to break into a “business as usual” meeting of representatives from fossil fuel corporations and state government in order to defend their land and advance the goals of the Paris Climate Conference to keep fossil fuels in the ground and enact an immediate transition to renewable energy.
As Christian activist Nathan Sooy of Dillsburg, PA, says in this video, “When civil discourse is finally closed off or ignored it leaves only the option for uncivil discourse.”
This is a 10 minute video of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Pipeline Task Force meeting the People’s Task Force for the Protection of Pennsylvania (EDGE, BXE, and Pennsylvania fractivists) in Harrisburg, Pa. The industry had their time to talk at the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force meetings. This video tells the people’s story, featuring public comment from Pennsylvania residents and public health advocates that were dismissed, silenced, and ignored after sacrificing to be at every meeting.
Seven people were arrested. None of them were the government or corporate representatives.
In May, First Church in Boston, a Unitarian Universalist church, held an important conversation. A panel took up the question “What are the Moral and Practical Considerations of a Fossil Fuel Divestment Strategy?”
Bill McKibben of 350.org has called for the divestment of fossil fuel stocks as a key strategy in the fight against climate change. Thoughtful professionals within the socially responsible investment and liberal religious communities have taken reasoned and moral positions both for and against this strategy. The video is a little more than an hour long. It is an key conversation in understanding how we can pressure fossil fuel companies to 1) leave fossil fuels in the ground, 2) let go of their stranglehold on American politics, 3) speed up their transition to renewable energies.
Below are my very rough notes from the video. I found the conversation of such value that I wanted to pass it along.
The only argument FOR the Keystone XL pipeline that held any moral weight was that pipeline construction would produce “jobs, jobs, jobs.” The need for jobs is a desperate one. And any construction project will produce sporadic work. But no self-respecting hard-hatter would work on a project that’s going to overheat the world.
When it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline, the oil and gas industry want you to believe that you have to choose between jobs and prairie grass. This tactic is called the “divide and conquer” or “divide and rule” strategy. It’s as old as the empires of ancient Greece and Rome. It still works because human nature hasn’t changed that much.
Two years ago I sat down across the table from Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, the highest ranking State Department official (short of the Secretary of State) to weigh in on the Keystone XL pipeline permit process. A group of religious leaders were delivering thousands of petitions to Dr. Jones asking her to to stop the pipeline.
I said to her, “If this decision about the pipeline was made purely based on the climate science, we wouldn’t be here having this discussion.” She’s a scientist. She knows the score. She didn’t disagree. “But,” she said, “everywhere we go across the country we hear about the need for jobs – especially in the middle of the country.”