Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Is Not This the Fast I Choose

2016 Lenten Devotional 
Is Not This the Fast I Choose: Listening to a Diversity of Voices

At the PEC conference in September 2015, The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Director of the Office of Public Witness, preached, "Presbyterians cannot solve the world’s environmental issues alone. It will take a unified effort from the privileged, those living in poverty, people of different races and cultures." To that end, we have invited a diversity of voices to provide devotions for this year’s Lenten Devotional.

Our inspiration comes from Isaiah 58: 6-9, Is not this the fast that I choose… God promised the Israelites a new thing on their return from exile. Yet on their arrival, they built a system that included injustice, oppression, and hunger. This was not the fast that God chose. Today, climate change and environmental degradation lead to issues of injustice, oppression, and hunger. This is not the fast that God chooses.

Reflections are planned for Ash Wednesday, each Sunday in Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. We hope that you find these reflections helpful and hopeful in this Lenten time of journeying to the cross.

Ash Wednesday Reflection
by Sue Smith
Is not this the fast that I break every yoke? (Isaiah 58:6, NRSV)

As we enter this season of Lent and our journey to the cross, a time of considering how we can make changes in our lives, those of us in the mainstream of the environmental movement might try to understand the efforts of the environmental justice movement, and how we can work together to promote that work. To help my understanding, I reached out to one of the leaders in the environmental justice (EJ) movement, Dr. Nicky Sheats. We talked about carbon trading, and how the mainstream environmental groups and the EJ movement look at the issue differently.
The journey to the cross goes through Environmental Justice Communities
What is carbon trading? Usually it is reducing overall carbon dioxide emissions by some defined amount coupled with the trading of emissions. Then it is called “cap and trade.” All polluters must obtain an “allowance” before they can emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide. Overall reductions are achieved by setting the amount of available allowances, and therefore carbon dioxide emissions, at a lower level than previous emissions. Overall emissions may drop, but individual corporations can avoid or limit reductions by buying allowances. Mainstream response? Great, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, positive impact on global warming and climate change. EJ response? If you emit carbon dioxide, you also emit other air pollutants that make people sick. So it matters to communities where these reductions occur. But it doesn’t matter to the trading program.

EJ ask: Make sure that polluting facilities in EJ communities are required to decrease emissions. Mainstream response: we need the carbon trading deal, let’s not complicate matters.

When discussions on carbon trading began, was the EJ movement consulted? No. As far as Dr. Sheats knows, no one reached out to the EJ movement. Did the EJ movement pitch a fit? Yes. Their perspective? Let’s take this opportunity to do some planning so that we make sure there are emissions reductions in communities overburdened with pollution.

Let us remember that everyone’s context is different. The EJ community wants to ensure emission reductions occur in neighborhoods most affected by pollution. The mainstream environmental movement wants an overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. These are very different goals. But they are not necessarily conflicting goals.

Have things changed over the years? Yes. Now that carbon trading is EPA policy, the mainstream seems more willing to listen to the needs of the EJ movement. As Christians, is this good enough? I don’t think so.

God asks us to break every yoke. One of the yokes is that suffered by EJ communities. As we enter this season of Lent, and reflect on how we might change our lives and break yokes, let us consider how we can make sure that that we not only hear all voices in the environmental movement, but that we take every opportunity to ensure that the concerns of all voices are included in planning solutions.

Prayer: Dear Lord, make our hearts open to the possibilities of the needs of all peoples in the care for your creation. Amen.

Sue Smith is the former Treasurer of Presbyterians for Earth Care, a recent M.Div. graduate of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Rumson, NJ.

I want to thank Dr. Nicky Sheats for participating in this conversation. He is the director of the Center for the Urban Environment at the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy of Thomas Edison State College, Trenton, NJ, which provides support for the environmental justice community both locally and nationally. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

PEC is Looking for Award Winners

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Creation Care,

This new year has already set records in areas of climate change...even recently with the most snowfall in one day in D.C. We enter into the future with unknowns and concern for the next generations, indeed for all Creation. 

And at the same time, we keep moving forward with passion and hope! We, as individuals and as community, can gain inspiration by mutually recognizing each other's work. And toward that end, PEC will gather with others in Portland, Oregon for the 222nd General Assembly, June 18 - 25, under the theme, The Hope in our Calling, (Ephesians 1:18-19).

First Pres Palo Alto receiving PEC Award in 2014
We ask for your support at GA through prayer, financial donations, through your presence, and through continuing advocacy for eco-justice. PEC members may make a positive statement by recognizing those faithful witnesses among us, and nominating them for our annual PEC Awards!

We are anxious to honor an outstanding individual with the William Gibson Eco-Justice Award or a group with the Restoring Creation Award. We are also announcing a new annual award for an Emerging Earth Care Leader, a person age 18 to 30, who may have been inspired through Eco-Stewards, as a Young Adult Volunteer, or a Presbyterian Camp and Conference Center, and who is passionate about Creation care.

As a reminder, only PEC members are eligible to submit nominations. If you are not a member of PEC, you can join or renew today. Then go to the nomination form and fill it out with your favorite awardee.

PEC will be honoring the recipients of the awards at our luncheon at GA on Tuesday, June 21 at noon at First Presbyterian Church. We encourage PEC members to nominate an individual or group...such as a church, presbytery or other faith-based organization, that has modeled leadership in eco-justice. The Steering Committee will be presenting each award winner with a free registration to our September 2017 conference at Menucha Camp and Conference Center near Portland, Oregon.*

Nomination forms are on-line. Please take a moment to review information about the awards, the Rev. William Gibson, and previous award winners here. Nominations are due by March 31.

Indeed, as we move toward The Hope in our Calling, we call upon each one of you as individuals, as community, as faithful witnesses

Come. Pray. Hope. Witness. For we are all called!!!

In Christ
Diane Waddell, Moderator

*The award will cover the registration fee but not room and board or transportation to Menucha. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Abby Brockway: First PEC EARTH-Keeper

EARTH-Keeper: Abby Brockway
by Holly Hallman, 
Northwestern Regional Representative to the Steering Committee

Let me introduce you to the Amazing Abby Brockway.  She is the first of our new Earth Keepers and here is how that came to be.

It was January 2014. Seattle Presbytery was considering an overture that would support the Lummi Nation in their efforts to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from building the largest coal terminal in the United States. The discussion went back and forth until a young woman came to the microphone and said, “I support this overture and I will be advocating for the Lummi in the months ahead. When I do I want to know that the whole Presbyterian Church has my back.”

Nine months later four people cabled themselves to a railroad track, building a
tripod 18 feet high above them. That same young woman sat atop that tripod blocking a train at the Delta switching yards in Everett, Washington. The five of them were arrested and spent the night in jail. They were charged with trespass and delaying a train. January 11, 2016 their trial began. The day before her trial Abby Brockway, ruling elder, gave the sermon at her church, Woodland Park Presbyterian.

While she was speaking, John Fife, founder of the sanctuary movement in the 1980s, was across town addressing another Presbyterian congregation. John said that the Presbyterian Church is very good at reform. He said that the Presbyterian Church is amazing at charity. Who does a better bowl of hot soup and a warm blanket? He said that Presbyterians are articulate and energetic advocates on issues that span all of our global concerns. He said that isn’t enough.  In order for the Presbyterian Church to be relevant to those who are inheriting our damaged earth and to make the issues move forward in a gridlocked Congressional world the church must resist. The fourth step, the next step, is resistance.

What would that look like?

Well, it might look like Abby Brockway sitting at the defendant's table during a recess with her almost-as-big-as-she-is daughter on her lap.  It might look like recess in a courtroom filled with chattering people and that same young woman standing and asking that all who are present join her in a silent time of reflection for the defendants.

When asked why she does the things she does Abby will tell you it's because she loves so much. She loves God and the Jesus that she follows. She loves her husband, daughter, parents, and her church. She loves the beauty of the Northwest in which she lives. She resists but she resists nonviolently. She resists in a way that caused three of the jurors, after they gave their verdict and were dismissed, to wait quietly outside in the hallway in order to embrace the defendants--Abby in particular. It looks like the judge Anthony Howard saying to the court, you have changed everyone in this room including myself. He went on to say that the trial might have devolved into a circus. There was no chanting and there were no challenging posters--just 5 people showing the northwest how powerful and relevant resistant is.  Abby was the spokesperson, the one the media looked to, the one who spoke with the “whole Presbyterian Church at her back.”

The resistance that John Fife proclaimed and demonstrated in his work with the sanctuary movement is the resistance, in love, that Abby Brockway is teaching us in Seattle.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Reflecting on Climate Talks in Paris

Images of Paris Climate Talks
by Gary Payton

The suitcase is unpacked. The swirl of a wonderful Christmas with family is past. What remains, however, are the indelible images in my mind of two weeks in Paris in December at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP21. 

Across 13 days, representatives of 195 nations hammered out an historic agreement intended to slow the onrush of human-caused climate change, assist developing nations in adapting to impacts, and accelerate the transition to low carbon economies.

Key points of the accord include a goal to keep the rise in average global temperature to “well below” 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and aim to limit the rise to 1.5 C (2.7F), national targets to reduce emissions and ratchet down those emissions via an every five year review, and for wealthy countries to support poorer countries in climate change adaptation via a $100 billion/year Green Climate Fund.

How then can you and I as PEC members translate a critical international environmental agreement into action in our personal lives, our congregations, and within the agencies of the PC(USA) General Assembly?  The images of Paris drive my faithful responses to this question: 

   I have stopped describing the impacts of climate change as a future reality.  My conversations with a Maryknoll sister from the Philippines, with young activists from southern Africa, and leaders from Pacific Island states drove home that impacts are now, they are present today, and God’s children are suffering.
   I am called to redouble my efforts to engage young adults across the PC(USA) and within secular environmental NGOs for climate change education and action.  My generation is culpable in accelerating the climate crisis. Young adults will lead in the climate solutions of the 2020s, 2030s, and beyond.
   And, I will continue my work within Fossil Free PCUSA, a PEC supported activity, urging the General Assembly in June 2016 to divest from fossil fuel holdings.  “If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage.”

In the spirit of the Paris Agreement and with God’s call in our hearts to care for creation, join me in advancing the PEC supported environmental overtures at the 222nd General Assembly in Portland, Oregon.

Gary Payton is an active PEC member, an environmental advocate, and member of Fossil Free PCUSA.  He attended COP21 in Paris as an "observer" credentialed with the PC(USA).  Gary and his wife, Nancy Copeland-Payton, make their home on a mountainside in Sandpoint, Idaho along with moose, deer, black bears, wild turkeys, and bunnies.