Creation Care, People Care and Fair Share. Those are the ethics of permaculture that I teach at Garfield Community Farm. Those are also what we want for the city of Pittsburgh and our surrounding region. We desire a clean planet where people thrive and no one is left out. As a pastor I am often drawn to these ethics and have been inspired by them to take action against environmental and social injustice. Taking action on global climate change is action that all people of faith should engage. Climate and local air quality are not issues for environmentalists only, they are issues for anyone who wants wellbeing for humanity.

As a Presbyterian I am thankful for the network of pastors and church leaders that make up the Pittsburgh Presbytery. We’re a mix of new churches doing unconventional ministry and centuries old churches that have served Pittsburgh and the surrounding region through our best and worst years. We’re quite a mix of conservatives and progressives, urban and rural, young and old, but we are united in our faith. For many years the Presbyterian Church (USA) has had a strong voice for justice where there is oppression. Over the past few years the Presbyterian Church and many other Christian denominations have called for eco-justice. We see that caring for the earth is an essential action of any faithful church. We believe that caring for the earth is inextricably bound to caring for people.

This week the 130+ churches of the Pittsburgh Presbytery, which represents 30,000 congregants, was delivered a resolution on eco-justice by the Peacemaking Team of the Presbytery. I serve on the peacemaking team and have worked two years with other team members to produce a resolution for the whole body to vote on that would do three things; bring a vote on divestment from fossil fuels, address the most pressing local ecological issues and propel congregations to make positive changes in their own theology and action.

On December 14, 2017 we voted to concur with many other presbyteries around the nation to divest from fossil fuels. This means we will have a strong contingent at our general assembly of representatives from all of the presbyteries around the United States in July calling for full divestment of our financial investments from the fossil fuel industry. We believe our voice  is extremely important in this conversation. We are one of the more conservative presbyteries and we are located in a region built on extractive industry. Even PIttsburgh sees that the future is in clean and renewable energy!

Secondly, we voted to oppose the fossil fuel industry expansion of our region as seen in the Royal Dutch Shell Ethane Cracker in Potter Township. The body showed great concern for both the environmental impact of the ethane cracker and the people that live in impoverished areas around of the region. It was a difficult vote, not because of disagreement around the environmental impact of the largest Ethane Cracker in North America, but because we know people who are being paid to build this facility. In the end the majority agreed that jobs are needed in Western PA, Ohio and West Virginia, but we want jobs that will transition us to a clean and livable future for our children and grand-children. While Shell promises thousands of jobs for our region, we know that these jobs will create an even stronger dependance on the fossil fuel industry at a time in history when clean energy jobs are the future. The opposition to Shell’s ethane facility will be represented in an official letter by the entire Presbytery and mailed to all appropriate politicians, regulators and newspapers. We will make it very clear that environmental stewardship is an issue for people of faith. We will make it clear that our faith and our scriptures are what lead us to such opposition.

Finally, we committed ourselves to positive action here at home! Our resolution calls on every one of our 130+ congregations to examine their own energy usage, implement money and energy saving retrofitting and consider carbon free energy wherever possible. The Peacemaking Team is building a strong network of partners to help churches begin this process. Partners and resources include The Green Building Alliance, Energy Independent Solutions, Clean Air Council, The Sierra Club, Scalo Roofing and more.

Article written by Rev. John Creasy of The Open Door Presbyterian Church. This article reflects his thoughts on the action taken by Pittsburgh Presbytery.

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