As I write this, much of the Montana Synod is blanketed in smoke. It comes from the fires in Glacier, it comes from the fires in Yellowstone. It comes from the fires in Wyoming and Montana. And it comes from the fires in California, Oregon, British Columbia. If ever we thought that what we do doesn’t affect others, that what others do doesn’t affect us—smoke and fire prove that to be wrong.
Once upon a time people were advised to travel to the West to get better air to breathe. Now, with the combination of environmental regulations that have cleaned up urban air, and the ever-increasing number of fires that burn in the west, the formerly pristine western air rivals cities across the globe with the worst industrial pollution. Air pollution is an equal opportunity toxin. It doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, native or white, old or young. Of course, people with more resources can seek ways to protect themselves—masks, air conditioning, medications. As always, the poor are the most vulnerable to the long and short term effects of smoke in the air.
Our church, the ELCA, has been on record since 1993 with a social statement: “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice.” Although the statement is 25 years old, it is remarkably prescient. As a church we are committed to taking better care of the earth. And we are committed to justice. The statement says:
“The earth is a planet of beauty and abundance; the earth system is wonderfully intricate and incredibly complex. But today living creatures, and the air, soil and water that support them, face unprecedented threats. Many threats are global; most stem directly from human activity. Our current practices may so alter the living world, that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner we know.”
The statement promises:
“We will play a role in bringing together parties in conflict, not only members of this church, but also members of society at large. This church’s widespread presence and credibility provides us a unique opportunity to mediate, to resolve conflict, and to move toward consensus.”
We have an opportunity to come together as persons of faith to discuss climate change and seek tools to empower care of creation. The Montana Association of Christians, along with the Montana Faith and Environment Coalition, are sponsoring a conference on “Faith, Science and Climate Action,” October 12 and 13 at the Emerson Center in Bozeman.
Keynotes and breakout groups will give participants an opportunity to explore climate justice, health issues, solar infrastructure, food security, congregational first steps.
For more information go to www.fscaconference.org, or look for information in the Montana Synod e-news.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA