Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Washington Voices
distributed 5/25/01 - ©2001

We welcome a number of new subscribers to these "Eco-Justice Notes." These new contacts came out of an Eco-Justice Conference held last week in Washington, DC., planned by the National Council of Churches. The conference was a marvelous gathering for worship, education, networking and advocacy, drawing people of faith from across the US.

Thanks to our new readers for signing up! We encourage all our subscribers to share these mailings with friends and colleagues.

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It is always easy for me to find a particular passage in Luke, because of the two large exclamation points that I drew in the margins many years ago. Luke 14:12-14 has the admonition: "when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you."

I turned to that verse while reflecting on this week's experiences in Washington, DC. On Tuesday afternoon, the conference participants fanned out across Capitol Hill -- 350 of us, from 39 states and 23 denominations. Our lobbying efforts were concentrated on the intertwined areas of energy policy and global climate change.

As church people, we brought a rather unique presence to the Hill, one that was at least tinged by the grace-filled spirit of Jesus. In that place of power and influence, where myriad groups negotiate for their own interests and benefits, our delegations came (I hope) with a less self-centered agenda.

We did not come bearing campaign contributions, and asking for political favors. Rather, we brought a moral witness and a spiritual presence. We tried to give voice to the needs and interests of others.

  • We spoke of the Gwich'in people and the Porcupine caribou herd, both of whom will be devastated by oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

  • We spoke for the people of Bangladesh, who will be among the most impacted victims of global warming.

  • We spoke for future generations, whose needs and interest are not adequately considered in short-sighted energy policies.

We dared to remind our Senators and Representatives of the notion of sacrifice, and we called upon them to provide leadership of the sort that carries political risk.

It was encouraging to see that our message of stewardship and servanthood was received with respect. We were not dismissed as "unrealistic" or "idealists." Our moral and faithful message contains a profound truth and a compelling power.

Jesus calls on us to provide care for "the least of these" without a focus on what we can get in return. In the halls of Congress, surrounded by advocates from business and industry, those who advocate for states and cities, and the representatives of labor unions, our voices, raised in the spirit of Jesus, were a refreshing contrast.

We continue to pray that our moral message also will be politically effective.

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The message about self-interest needs some nuance and balance. Not all self-interest is wrong. There are times when speaking up for self and community is totally appropriate.

  • We were moved at the conference when two Gwich'in spoke to us about their struggle for economic and cultural survival.

  • We heard of the crises faced by African-American communities in North Carolina, and by Native Americans on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, as they battle environmental and legal problems with huge corporate hog operations.

  • We learned of folk who have had to fight both government and corporations to achieve the cleanup of toxic wastes in their own neighborhoods.

  • We discovered how Central American coffee growers, caught up in the globalized economy, need to connect with "fair trade" networks to maintain a livable income.

Those who are exploited, oppressed and marginalized deserve our support, encouragement and empowerment in their efforts.


Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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Eco-Justice Ministries ended all programming on July 31, 2020. This site is an archive of writings and resources.
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