United Church to decide next week whether it opposes Northern Gateway

By Natalie Stechyson, Postmedia News August 10, 2012

OTTAWA — The United Church of Canada will vote next week on whether to publicly oppose the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, an issue some church leaders say is a moral question.

The proposal, from the British Columbia Native Ministries Council, is one of about 130 proposals church commissioners will discuss at the 41st General Council in Ottawa. The General Council meets every three years to elect a new church moderator and approve new policies.

“We are united in our belief that this project and others like it will do a disproportionate amount of direct harm to the life-sustaining air, food and water that we all share on Earth,” the proposal says.

The British Columbia Native Ministries Council, which is primarily made up of aboriginal members, took its proposal to the church’s All Native Circle Conference in July.

That conference then asked the General Council to publicly support the native ministries council in categorically rejecting construction of the proposed pipeline, and to communicate that decision to government, industry and the public.

Deliberations on the question are to take place Tuesday. The council commissioners could choose to accept, reject, or table the resolution for further study.

The 1,172-kilometre Gateway pipeline would transport oilsands crude from northern Alberta to the port of Kitimat, B.C., where it would be loaded onto supertankers and shipped to Asian markets.

The council will consider issues such as aboriginal rights and climate change when deliberating on the topic, said Mardi Tindal, the current moderator of the United Church of Canada.

“All of our sacred texts speak to the need of having an economy that is based on ecological health and justice,” Tindal said.

The United Church of Canada is no stranger to taking political stands. For instance, it called on the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage in 2003 — two years before it was legalized.

General Council will also consider proposals on a number of social justice issues including Canadian mining activities in the Philippines and Central America, the age of eligibility for Old Age Security, and the Israel-Palestinian debate.

“It enlivens our faith when we engage in these passionate conversations. It causes us to go deeply into what it means to have a living faith that not only breathes in with prayer, but breathes out with action,” Tindal said.

The United Church of Canada is the country’s largest protestant denomination, with close to three million Canadians identifying themselves identifying their religion as the United Church, according to Statistics Canada.

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Original source article: United Church to decide next week whether it opposes Northern Gateway