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“Let There be Light” Open Letter

Washington, (May 18, 2001) – 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:  



 May 18, 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). Signed: Rev. H. George Anderson Presiding Bishop Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson Dean, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies University of Judaism Mathews Mar Barnabas Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church American Diocese Archbishop Khajag Barsamian Primate Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) Mr. Harvey Blitz  President Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America Rabbi Hershel Billet President Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox) Dr. Norman J. Cohen  Acting President Hebrew Union College Dr. Leonard A. Cole Chair Jewish Council for Public Affairs Dr. C. Mackey Daniels President Progressive National Baptist Convention Archbishop Demetrios Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar General Secretary 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 President Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michelson General Secretary 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  Executive Director The Alliance of Baptists Rev. R. Burke Johnson  President Moravian Church – Northern Province Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch Arlene Kelly Presiding Clerk Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church (USA); Rev. Dr. Seung Koo Choi General Secretary General Assembly of the Korean Presbyterian Church in America Rabbi Charles Kroloff President Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform) Rabbi Vernon H. Kurtz President Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative) Dr. Norman Lamm President Yeshiva University Rev. Michael E. Livingston  Executive Director 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 Executive Director Church of the Brethren General Board The Rev. Dr. Robert H. Roberts Interim General Secretary American Baptist Churches, USA Metropolitan Philip Saliba Primate Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdicoese of North America Dr. Ismar Schorsch  Chancellor Jewish Theological Seminary of America Mark A. Seal Executive Vice-President Jewish Reconstructionist Federation Dr. William J. Shaw President National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. Rabbi Daniel Siegel Rabbinic Director ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal Rev. William G. Sinkford President Unitarian Universalist Association Bishop Paul A. Stewart, Sr. Presiding Bishop Christian Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Melvin G. Talbert  Ecumenical Officer, Council of Bishops The United Methodist Church Rabbi David A. Teutsch President Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Metropolitan Theodosius 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 President Union of American Hebrew Congregations Rt. Rev. McKinley Young Presiding Bishop Tenth Episcopal District African Methodist Episcopal Church

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