Exclusive United Methodist Insight

Two days after taking part in a major oil pipeline protest with indigenous Minnesota leaders, three priestesses expressed hope that their brothers and sisters from United Methodius would be encouraged to testify more strongly on behalf of a planet facing the deadly effects of human-induced climate change and other forms. oppression.

They say they understand how frightening the breadth and complexity of the climate crisis can be, but that the time is urgent for believers to oppose activities that cause climate injustice around the world, said the Rev. Susan Mullin, Rev. Dana Neuhauser and the Rev. Nancy Victorin-Vangerud in a Zoom interview with United Methodist Insight.

“In Deuteronomy 30:19, Moses gives the Israelites a choice of life or death. We are in a similar moment where we have to choose life or death, ”said Rev. Mullin, who retired Aug. 27 as director of the Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, a well-known nonprofit that works with religious communities to address the climate crisis. .

“The Secretary-General of the United Nations called the latest report on climate change ‘the red code for humanity,'” the Reverend Mullin said. “Simply put, we are killing ourselves.”

Ordained deacons Mullin and Neuhauser and ordained Elder Victorin-Vangerud were among about 2,000 people who joined the demonstrations of the Treaty of Not Tar Sands on Aug. 25 in the Capitol of Minnesota, Minneapolis. The event was the latest in their longstanding opposition to the Line 3 pipeline.

“Susan, Nancy and I have been appearing on this issue for years,” Reverend Neuhauser said of the Contracts of Not Tar Sands protest.

Reverend Mullin said the demonstrations, organized and led by Indigenous leaders, were the last attempt to stop the completion of the Line 3 pipeline being built by Enbridge, a Canadian company. It is planned that raw tar raw material will be delivered from Calgary, Alberta to Superior, Wis., The pipeline crosses the mouth of the Mississippi River and contracts countries where the people of Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) retain the rights to hunt, fish and gather.

Comparisons with Standing Rock

Reverend Neuhauser noted interesting comparisons between the Line 3 protest and the 2016 protest against the Dakota pipeline near the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. Dozens of united Methodists, especially from the Indian Missionary Conference in Oklahoma, took part in the Standing Rock demonstrations.

“Line 3 crosses more than 200 water bodies, including twice crossing the Mississippi, where the Dakota pipeline was one place,” she said, “With Line 3 we are all downstream if you look at the basin maps. For example, Minneapolis draws all its water from the Mississippi. ”

Reverend Neuhauser explained that the issues surrounding the protest on line 3 include respect for the treaty with the Anishinaabe nation; effects of pipelines on the environment; the oil industry’s contributions to greenhouse gases causing global warming; and the racial implications of environmentally hazardous locations often found in colored communities.

“Gov. (Tim) Walz said he “believes in the process” regarding the pipeline, but has that process ever served the Indians well? “Reverend Mullin asked.” Why would we think it would serve them well now? The ‘process’ is structured to benefit the ordinary business, to maintain the ordinary business.

“When we say we don’t want a pipeline, regulations aren’t set to support us,” she said.

Challenging the ‘doctrine of discovery’

While the struggle over Line 3 continues to take place politically and through the courts, the protest against the Treaties other than Tar Sands has abundantly demonstrated why the United Methodists should include and increase their public testimony about the care of creation, Rev. Neuhauser said.

“Some of the most powerful moments on Standing Rock occurred when various religions rejected the‘ Doctrine of Discovery, ’” Reverend Neuhauser said, referring to a papal decree of 1493 giving Europeans the “right” to conquer and exploit America, which considered “empty” countries despite an indigenous population of about 100 million people.

“We said nice words and now is the time to put energy into that renunciation,” she continued. “We have blood on our hands like Christians. It is not enough to reject; we must destroy the system if we want to live in our baptismal covenant for the water with which we are welcome in the church. ”

Reverend Victorin-Vangerud, who also retired from full-time service in August, agreed. “We are building on the church act of repentance from 2012. We ‘repent’, as George Tinker teaches. Repentance is a verb; it is active. ”

“It’s good that we have Jesus to show us what kenosis is [self-emptying] it seems, ”laughed the Reverend Neuhauser. “[With creation care efforts] we put our baptized boots on the ground, and that will cost us money, time, and our ego. ”

Reverend Mullin, who was part of the Minnesota group that created the EarthKeepers movement that became the General Committee of Global Ministries Programs, added that “we have a lot of people at UMC who care about God’s creation and climate justice, but I seem to be missing knowledge of how to create change.

“We created EarthKeepers to teach people how to organize the community locally,” said Rev. Mullin. “The Methodist movement was originally about community organization, but we lost those skills.”

Reverend Mullin said she recognized how difficult it is for the United Methodists to take public testimony about the justice of creation.

“I’m optimistic, but also realistic about how big the change is and how hard it is to do it,” she said. “I say that with modesty because I understand how long it took me to get to where I am. I have a lot of sympathy and understanding for people who are not comfortable organizing. ”

What’s next for activists?

So what did the three activists think their participation in the Non-Tar Sands Agreements had been achieved?

“I came home and wrote two checks – one in honor of Earth, organized by Winone LaDuke, to fund bail for 700 people arrested in line 3 protests, and one in a Dakota land recovery project that builds land houses and restores indigenous culture.” said the Reverend Victorin-Vangerud. “I hope the governor of Minnesota or the president will stop line 3 even during a visit to Afghanistan.”

Reverend Victorin-Vangerud, who worked as a chaplain at Hamline University for 14 years, considered “Contracts Are Not Tar Sands” another step in her long-standing advocacy. “Justice does not retreat,” she added.

She added that she believes Christians, including united Methodists, must look sharply, critically at theologies that support industries and lifestyles that are destroying the planets.

“For me, what is at the crossroads is the integrity of our theology,” said the Rev. Victorin-Vangerud. “Our entire doctrinal system needs to be fully examined – the arrogance of people sovereign over creation; the idea that God will save us no matter what we do to the world; the whole notion of ‘going to perfection’. We need to examine our theology and examine who pays the price for our actions.

“Churches have a problem with credibility because of everything that has gone wrong, but mentoring young people in public testimony can help,” she continued. “We can focus on sustainable community agriculture and the shift from industrial to regenerative agriculture in urban and suburban areas. We may not be able to save the entire planet, but we can save some communities. ”

Reverend Mullin said that, since she retired from “gaining employment”, she plans to continue her commitment by volunteering.

“I think the hurdle for United Methodists looking to get engaged is to have someone to go with,” Rev. Mullin said. “We should all wear the same T-shirt, travel together, meet at a certain place, eat some food. We can make public testimony a normal thing by helping people get into it in a way that makes them comfortable. ”

‘Turn a broken heart into action’

Meanwhile, Reverend Neuhauser, who serves as public testimony minister at New City Church in Minneapolis and as newly appointed coordinator for racial justice at a Minnesota conference, sees efforts to care for the creation as part of an interconnected network of judicial issues on which the church should take the lead. .

“For me, it is crucial to pay tribute to the people who walked from the source (to the state capital at the protest), focusing the voices of indigenous leaders, young people, people who literally risked their lives for this (line 3 protest,” she said. “We need to hear their first stories, like the reality that international corporate funds paid for law enforcement along the pipeline route to buy new equipment and pay for overtime work for safety. This then turned into rubber bullets used against indigenous women (to prevent their protests).

“We ask the wrong questions if we just ask if it is legal for people to protest; the earth, water and animals cannot be protected, ”said Rev. Neuhauser. “There are so many layers in it; we must retain and witness these stories. I will preach their stories and share them to train and equip people for future events. We can honor the power of stories that can turn a broken heart into action. ”

Cynthia B. Astle is the editor of United Methodist Insight, which she founded in 2011. This article is part of Insight’s ongoing reporting as a participant in Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration between about 400 news stories dedicated to improved global climate reporting. crisis.

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