May 21, 2001, WASHINGTON, D.C. - Quoting Scripture and speaking with a powerful moral voice, thirty-nine of the nation's most senior religious leaders released an open letter today to President Bush, the Congress and the American people, calling for moral reflection on the country's energy policy.
Describing conservation as "a personal and a public virtue, "a comprehensive moral value," 39 heads of denominations and senior leaders of major American faith groups, who serve over 60 million Americans, released, 'Let There Be Light' (Gen 1:3): Energy Conservation and God's Creation."
They urged that all Americans "reflect carefully and speak clearly from their deepest moral and religious convictions about the President's recently announced energy plan." Noting that they "are not scientists, energy experts, or policymakers," the leaders wrote that our decisions on energy policy raise "fundamental moral and religious questions." They urged that all Americans "reflect carefully and speak clearly from their deepest moral and religious convictions about the President's recently announced energy plan."
"We are releasing this letter to encourage discussion of religious and moral values," said Mark X. Jacobs, executive director of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, which circulated the letter in the Jewish community. "This is not a partisan effort. Among the signers are Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals. What has brought us together are common values and a common vision for our nation's energy future."
Citing Genesis' call to 'till and to tend the garden' (Gen 2:15), the letter suggests we have "a moral obligation to choose the safest, cleanest and most sustainable sources of energy to protect and preserve God's creation." It outlines five major values: stewardship, intergenerational responsibility, justice, prudent human action, and global leadership.
The full text of the statement follows:
Energy Conservation and God's Creation
Am Open Letter to the President,
the Congress, & the American People
May 21, 2001
As heads of major religious communities, we pray that all Americans will reflect carefully and speak clearly from their deepest moral and religious convictions about the President's recently announced energy plan.
Far more than rolling blackouts and gasoline price increases are at stake: the future of God's creation on earth; the nature and durability of our economy; our public health and public lands; the environment and quality of life we bequeath our children and grandchildren. We are being called to consider national purpose, not just policy.
This is the first debate on energy in a generation, and it takes place under unprecedented circumstances: global warming is a scientific fact; population growth has added 2 billion people to the planet; the aspirations of the developing world are raising consumption; advances in new technologies for clean and efficient energy make renewable energy a technological and economic option. We must take time to engage this challenge as a moral people at a pivotal, historic moment.
We are not scientists, energy experts, or policymakers. But because this challenge raises fundamental moral and religious questions, we believe the perspectives of faith and values should help shape a national discussion.
Conservation and Stewardship of God's Creation
"The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" (Ps 24:1). In light and wind, in land and water, energy resources are abundant gifts for human well-being from our creator God. Because we are called to "till and to tend the garden" (Gen 2:15), we have a moral obligation to choose the safest, cleanest and most sustainable sources of energy to protect and preserve God's creation. Energy conservation is faithful stewardship.
Conservation and Responsibility to Future Generations
The gifts of God's creation are to be conserved over time for God's children. "This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations" (Gen 9:12). Humankind has a fundamental choice of priorities for its future. By depleting energy sources, causing global warming, fouling the air with pollution, and poisoning the land with radioactive waste, a policy of increased reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power jeopardizes health and well-being for life on Earth. On the other hand, by investing in clean technology, renewable energy, greater vehicle fuel efficiency and safer power plants we help assure sustainability for God's creation and God's justice. Energy conservation is intergenerational responsibility.
Conservation and Justice
The prophet Micah says "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). The gifts of God's creation must be shared fairly among God's children. Energy policy must be an instrument of social and economic justice here and abroad. The first beneficiaries of a new energy policy should be "the least among us," the poor, the vulnerable, and the sick to whom we can provide assistance with high energy bills, inexpensive mobility through expanded mass transit, cleaner air by reducing pollution from power plants, and lower gasoline prices through strict monitoring of oil companies for price-gouging. Energy conservation is justice for all peoples and nations.
Conservation, Prudence, and Precaution
There is no single solution to the present energy challenge. We do not have to sacrifice economic security to assure environmental health. Prudence - the application of moral principle in service to the common good - should guide us to meet immediate needs in such a way as to enhance, not diminish future sustainability. And where there are genuine risks to health and well-being, the principle of precaution should guide our actions. More investment in renewable energy and fuel efficiency is now a moral imperative especially because these are technologically feasible and economically viable. Energy conservation is prudent human action.
Conservation in the Age of Global Warming
These concerns have entirely unprecedented moral urgency in the 21st century. In its reliance on fossil fuels, American energy policy is a cause of global climate change. With less than 5% of the world's population, our nation is generating more than 22% of greenhouse gas emissions. The United States has a moral responsibility to lead a transition to a new sustainable global energy system. Everything we do to assure safe and sustainable energy domestically must at the same time promote it internationally. We must join in binding international agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, which set energy conservation targets and timetables. Preventing climate change is a preeminent expression of faithfulness to our Creator God.
Energy conservation is global leadership and solidarity.
We call on all Americans, and particularly our own leaders and congregants, to consider carefully these values, which should guide our individual energy choices and by which we should judge energy policy options. In securing human well-being by preserving creation and promoting justice, conservation is a personal and a public virtue - a comprehensive moral value - a standard for everything we do to assure energy for a wholesome way of life. We pray that the wisdom, faith, and solidarity of the American people will bring us together - at this critical juncture - to redirect our national energy policy toward conservation, efficiency, justice, and maximum use of the perennial abundance of clean and renewable energy that our Creator brought into being by proclaiming, "Let there be light" (Gen 1:3).
Rev. H. George Anderson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Mathews Mar Barnabas
Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian
Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
Mr. Harvey Blitz
Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
Rabbi Hershel Billet
Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox)
Dr. Norman J. Cohen
Hebrew Union College
Dr. Leonard A. Cole
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Dr. C. Mackey Daniels
Progressive National Baptist Convention
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and
Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein
Executive Vice President/CEO
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michelson
Reformed Church in America
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
Episcopal Church, USA
Dr. Richard L. Hamm
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), in the U.S. and Canada
The Rev. Dr. Stan Hastey
The Alliance of Baptists
Rev. R. Burke Johnson
Moravian Church - Northern Province
Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim
Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rabbi Charles Kroloff
Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform)
Rabbi Vernon H. Kurtz
Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative)
Dr. Norman Lamm
Rev. Michael E. Livingston
International Council of Community Churches
Mercurius, Bishop of Zaraisk
Vicar Bishop of His Holiness
The Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia
Rev. Judy Mills Reimer
Church of the Brethren General Board
The Rev. Dr. Robert H. Roberts
Interim General Secretary
American Baptist Churches, USA
Metropolitan Philip Saliba
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdicoese of North America
Dr. Ismar Schorsch
Jewish Theological Seminary of America
Mark A. Seal
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
Rabbi Daniel Siegel
ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Bishop Paul A. Stewart, Sr.
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Bishop Melvin G. Talbert
Ecumenical Officer, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
Rabbi David A. Teutsch
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
Primate, Orthodox Church in America
Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ
Archbishop Vsevolod of Scopelos
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
Rabbi Eric Yoffie
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Rt. Rev. McKinley Young
Tenth Episcopal District