Religious Leaders Examine
Ties to Northwest Rivers

At a "Day of Moral Deliberation," a diverse group sought to link spirituality and environmentalism.

PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS)-- After years of heated political and scientificdebate about the decline of Columbia salmon and the river's many uses,religious leaders of Oregon and Washington are joining in the discussion-- but differently.

On Feb. 4, the Rev. John Rosenberg of the Southwest Washington Synodof the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America urged 60 people gatheredfor a "Day of Moral Deliberation" to sing a hymn.

"Shall we gather at the river, where bright angel feet have trod,"sang the group of ministers, parishioners, farmers, business people,environmental activists and Native Americans--people whose views aboutthe Columbia River do not harmonize nearly as well as their voices.

The all-day event, held at Northeast Portland's Bethlehem LutheranChurch, illustrated the link that religious leaders are working to forgebetween faith and environmentalism.

"We know these are issues that evoke passion, confusion andcacophony," said David Leslie, executive director for the EcumenicalMinistries of Oregon, in offering the opening prayer.

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In churches and synagogues across the country, congregations are nowregularly reminded the Bible and the Torah instruct mankind to care forthe Earth and its creatures. In the Northwest, religious leaders arefocusing on one of the region's most divisive environmental concerns:the Columbia River.

Roman Catholic bishops in the Northwest and British Columbia arefinishing a pastoral letter that, as early as this spring, will reachout to Catholics as well as "all people of good will" and likely declarethe Earth a "sacred shared space." A draft version says problemssuffered by wildlife and native people in the region are the result of"greed, ignorance, irresponsibility and abuse of economic and politicalpower."

The "Day of Deliberation" invited people of different interests toshare their opinions on the breaching of four lower Snake River dams,dredging the Columbia River, Native American fishing rights, theeconomic benefits of barging and the role agriculture plays.

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Michelle Cole
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