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for people who care about the West

Churches greening none too soon

  Dear HCN,

Thanks to HCN and Jim Robbins for the fine piece on the Columbia River Pastoral Letter Project ("Holy Water," HCN, 9/11/00: Holy Water). The pastoral letter is a good example of what some have called the "greening" of the Christian Church. Other efforts to make Christianity more "earth friendly" are under way among Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, and the Orthodox churches. It's not a moment too soon!

One unique feature of the pastoral letter is that it ties reflection on the environment to a specific watershed - the Columbia River - rather than relying solely on abstract ethical and theological principles that are disconnected from a sense of place. As a host of writers from John Wesley Powell to Charles Wilkinson have pointed out, in the American West, watersheds are often the most appropriate demarcations for ethical reflection about our relationship to the environment.

One minor correction. The sidebar on page 11 states that the Jubilee Year is celebrated every 25 years. According to Leviticus 25, the Jubilee Year is the 50th year. It is the culmination of a series of environmentally friendly laws which include rest for the land every seven years (the origin of the modern "sabbatical" leave in higher education), forgiveness of debts, land redistribution, and freedom for all slaves. In Jesus' first sermon at the beginning of his ministry, he in effect announces the beginning of the Year of Jubilee (Luke 4:18,19). So in a sense, the answer to the question, "Was Jesus an environmentalist?" is a resounding "Yes!"

John Rosenberg
Eugene, Oregon