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Standing with the Kivalina at GC77

Standing with the Kivalina at GC77

The Rev. P. Joshua Griffin writing at Episcopal News Service (ENS) urges attention to a resolution coming before General Convention:

.. It’s … obvious that climate change is not so much about future generations as it is about our most marginalized brothers and sisters, right here, right now.

This unfortunate truth is well known about one hundred miles above the Arctic Circle within the Iñupiaq community of Kivalina, Alaska, a village of 400 persons and home to the Kivalina Epiphany Church. “We’re an adaptable people, we’ve always been,” recalls Colleen Swan, who served as tribal administrator for 18 years, now sits on the Kivalina City Council, and serves as treasurer for Episcopal Church Women. “But since 2004 we just can’t adapt this fast.” That was the year when Kivalina started to experience rapid land failure—a story covered by the Episcopal Digital Network, Wayfarer Project.

The Rev. Enoch Adams Jr. chairs the Kivalina Relocation Planning Committee, which is tasked with moving the community so as to save his peoples’ place-based culture and human identity. …With the construction of the first school in 1905, the federal government forced an autonomous and semi-nomadic society, the Kivalliñigmiut, to settle on what had been a summer hunting camp. Despite its role in the forced sedentarization and assimilation of Kivalina’s people, U.S. government support remains unavailable for climate-induced relocation projects.

As General Convention deputies, the Rev. Enoch Adams Jr. and Austin Swan Sr., a village elder, will carry the concerns of their people to Indianapolis. “It’s about time,” Enoch said, “we’ve been waiting for so long to find an ally and we couldn’t find it anywhere. Not in government agencies… in nobody at all. It’s the church, it’s really incumbent on the church, I think, to take the lead on this.”

… the Kivalina deputation will introduce a resolution that asks the Episcopal Church to pledge its solidarity with “overburdened ‘frontline’ communities… already experiencing the impacts of climate change.”

But the proposed resolution goes one step further.

Seizing upon novel conditions, made possible only through global warming, Shell will begin offshore oil exploration in the Arctic later this month. The logic of “manifest destiny” embedded in our fossil fuel economy has carried Shell to the Chukchi Sea, threatening a critical food source and the migration routes of the bowhead whale, central to Kivalina’s Iñupiaq spirituality. The threats posed to culture, ecology, health—to human and ecological dignity—by the growth of an economy powered by fossil fuel are unspeakable.

In submitting this resolution, the members of Kivalina Epiphany Church were emboldened by the 2009 General Convention’s repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery. “I’m glad the Doctrine of Discovery concept was struck down when it was,” Enoch stated. “It is like God told somebody to write this stuff down so that when we reach an issue like oil discovery up here, we have a means to help people understand where we’re coming from when we oppose oil exploration in our waters.”

At this year’s convention, the Kivalina deputation and their allies will do the world a great service when they ask the church to commit to the kind of transition we badly need. The resolution calls on the Episcopal Church to resist not only offshore oil extraction, but all forms of increasingly unconventional and destructive fossil fuel development: strip-mining for coal in Appalachia and the Intermountain West, tar-sands oil development in Canada and Utah and “fracking” for methane gas throughout the U.S….

Resolution text below:

Title: The Episcopal Church commits to Climate Justice for all God’s People and all God’s Creation.

Resolved, the House of ________ concurring, That the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church stands in solidarity with those communities who bear the greatest burdens of global climate change: indigenous peoples, subsistence communities, communities of color, and persons living in deprivation around the world; and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and corporate offices of The Episcopal Church, to organize and advocate for local, state, federal, and international policies to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions, that such policies be based on the best available scientific consensus, and that they provide tangible benefits to overburdened “frontline” communities (those already experiencing the impacts of climate change) and “fence-line” communities (those suffering in body and spirit for their proximity to the extraction and processing of fossil fuels); and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and corporate offices of The Episcopal Church, to work for the just transformation of the world’s energy beyond and away from fossil fuels (including all forms of oil, coal, and natural gas) and toward safe, sustainable, renewable, community controlled energy, and that fossil fuel workers and their families be supported during the transition to a “post-carbon” society; and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and corporate offices of The Episcopal Church to resist the development and expansion of ever more unconventional, dangerous, and environmentally destructive sources of fossil fuel, including, but not limited to: mountain-top removal coal mining in Appalachia, expanded coal strip-mining in the Intermountain West, offshore oil-drilling, especially in the Arctic, ongoing “tar-sands” development throughout North America, and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas; and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and corporate offices of The Episcopal Church to support the self-determined aspirations of communities around the world, who, like the Iñupiaq Community of Kivalina, Alaska, having emitted minimal amounts of carbon and having received negligible material benefit from fossil fuel consumption, nevertheless bear the brunt of climate-change impacts; and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and corporate offices of The Episcopal Church, including Episcopal Relief and Development, to support the implementation of grassroots, community-based solutions to climate change, including, but not limited to, adaptations to improve local resilience, to build local food sovereignty, to support ecological restoration and economic re-localization.


Especially since 2004, the Iñupiaq community of Kivalina has been ever-increasingly at-risk because of global climate change. Loss of sea ice has led to increased coastal erosion, land failure, and unreliable, if not perilous, conditions for the practice of subsistence hunting. Climate change is the latest of environmentally mediated “historical traumas” to descend upon Kivalina in the name of progress and development—these include the ongoing water and fish pollution from the worlds largest zinc mine (the Red Dog Mine), and the community’s near annihilation through a narrowly defeated project of nuclear hubris, known as “Project Chariot”. In July 2012, Shell Oil is slated to begin oil exploration of the Chukchi Sea—the deepest source of Iñupiaq food, cultural identity and spirituality alike. Recognizing that Kivalina is but one community which exposes the violence of climate change, the Kivalina Epiphany Church, through this resolution of its Mission Committee, cries out for “climate justice” for all God’s People and for all God’s Creation.

We affirm past efforts and commitments of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (2006-B002 Response to Global Warming, 2009-D035 Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, 2009-D014 Environmental Justice, 2009-C070 Memorializing the Genesis Covenant, 2009-C064 Endorsement of the Earth Charter, 2009-C012 Scientific Integrity and Environmental Policy, 2009-C011 Governmental Policies for Environmental Stewardship, 2009-A155 Alleviation of Domestic Poverty). We especially take heart in the Bishops’ Pastoral Teaching on the Environment, adopted in Quito in September of 2011 (page 52-54 in “the Blue Book”), which calls on the Church “to work toward climate justice”; we submit this resolution in faithfulness to their pastoral leadership.

As indigenous followers of Jesus, we are emboldened by the 76th General Convention’s repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery and regard new and continued fossil fuel exploration and extraction as a contemporary manifestation of that evil Doctrine, abiding by the very same logic of “manifest destiny.” Such practices add insult to injury when they are carried out in proximity to already vulnerable populations, like Shell’s oil exploration in our Chukchi Sea. We recognize that we are but one of the many climate-vulnerable communities around the world. It is clear to us that the dominant global culture is in need of a dramatic overhaul—the scope of which may be difficult for those who “hold authority” to imagine, let alone enact—yet as Christians we are called not simply to imagine but to make God’s Kingdom incarnate.

We recognize and affirm the urgent aspirations of environmentally vulnerable communities around the world. To such communities the Episcopal Church has a duty of solidarity and Christian love. We believe that such networks of compassion and support within the Body of Christ may be our last best chance at survival. We call upon the Episcopal Church at every level to live into its prophetic voice for climate justice as part and parcel of our baptismal commitment to “justice and peace among all people” and to “respect the dignity of every human being.”

Submitted by:

Rev. Enoch Adams Jr., Kivalina Epiphany Church, Missions Committee;

Austin Swan Sr., Kivalina Epiphany Church, Missions Committee; and


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Really? There’s not even a pretense here to be the Church. Small wonder that TEC is declining at breathtaking speed. God is taking away your lamp stand.

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