Alaskan Diocesan Assembly passes resolution on the environment

H/T: Orrologion

Orthodox Church in America

ANCHORAGE, AK [Diocese of Alaska/ October 21, 2009] — The Orthodox Diocese of Alaska, meeting at its annual Assembly at Saomt Innocent Cathedral here, passed a unanimous resolution today, calling on state and federal agencies to deny permits to any “commercial or economic project” that threatens to damage or pollute the natural environment. The basis for the Church’s opposition to any “development” derives from a spiritual and theological concern, rather than political considerations.

The resolution first cites the traditional reverential attitude Alaska Native peoples have always had toward their environment, and then lists the Biblical sources for the belief that God blessed the world at the time of creation and that, despite human greed, waste and sin, He now is renewing it, restoring it, blessing and sanctifying it.

Central to the Church’s declaration is its affirmation that for over 200 years, parishes along the lakes and rivers have been performing the Great Blessing of Water, in commemoration of the Baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan. During this annual ceremony, conducted along the shores of lakes and streams as well as at the coasts of the oceans, the Holy Spirit is invoked to bless the water, so that it becomes “holy water” used for the sanctifications of churches, homes and vehicles for the coming year.

Once a river or lake has been blessed, it becomes permanently sacred to Orthodox Christians. Any threat to destroy, contaminate or pollute it is seen as a form of desecration.

Claiming that a river or lake is sacred may also qualify it for protection under the terms of the Native American Freedom of Religions Act.

The Orthodox Diocese of Alaska is comprised of about 20,000 Alaska Natives in 95 Aleut, Yup’ik Eskimo, Athabaskan and Tlingit communities.

Full text follows.



Resolution of the Assembly of the Orthodox Diocese of Sitka, Anchorage and Alaska Concerning the Sanctity of the Earth and the Responsibility all Alaskan Native People to serve as its Guardians and Protectors


Whereas, according to the traditions and teachings of Alaska Native peoples, the Earth and the whole creation have always been perceived and experienced as filled with the sacred presence of Life, and

Whereas, historically Alaska Native peoples have approached all living and life-sustaining elements with reverence and respect, and

Whereas, in the Sacred Scriptures our Orthodox Christian Tradition, the creation of the world began with the Spirit of God moving on the face of the Deep, and

Whereas, God so loved the KOSMOS, meaning the whole creation, that He sent His Son into the world to bless, renew and sanctify it, and

Whereas, at the beginning of His earthly ministry, Our Lord Jesus Christ came first to the waters of the Jordan and

Whereas, at the time of His baptism, the Holy Trinity was revealed as the Voice of the Father spoke from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended upon the waters in the form of a Dove to renew the creation, and

Whereas, in commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord each year the Church celebrates the Great Blessing of Water at lakes, streams and on the coasts of the seas and oceans, and

Whereas, in the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church, the Great Blessing of Waters is a normal and regular feature of every baptism and

Whereas, the parishes of the Orthodox Diocese, founded at Kodiak in 1794 have been conducting this rite of blessing and sanctification for more than two hundred years in Alaska, and

Whereas, it is therefore the belief and sacred tradition of Alaskan Orthodox people that the lakes, rivers, streams and ocean are sacred to us, and

Whereas, that which is sacred must be treated with utmost respect, care and reverence and guarded from any danger of defilement, desecration or pollution,

Be it resolved that the Orthodox Church in Alaska calls upon all appropriate state and federal agencies to reject any so-called commercial or economic “development” that in any way threatens the viability, purity and sanctity of the natural world, especially the rivers and lakes which we hold sacred by both God’s original blessing and the continued invocation of the Holy Spirit to bless and sanctify the rivers and lakes along which our communities have been established for thousands of years, and

Be it further Resolved that the Orthodox Church in Alaska welcomes and invokes God’s Blessing upon all those who would bring economic development to our communities provided they can prove by successful and continuing operation elsewhere on earth, (and not hypothetically or theoretically), that they can conduct such activities without potential or significant harm to the natural environment or polluting the waters which we hold blessed and sacred.


  1. What was the purpose of this resolution? Is Alaska suddenly under the control of some irresponsible government entity that will rape the land and leave nothing but blight?

    I’m happy that the Alaskan clergy have unanimously decided that the environment is a good thing, and to be honored and protected – but this is new? It is news?
    There are many good projects in Alaska that are being held up by Greenpeace, Sierra Club and the like that help the people in Alaska and not pollute the environment.

    For example, the proposed road from King Cove, so that vehicles can take the sick quickly to larger hospital facilities without a medivac. This will not adversely impact the environment in any conceivable way, and will help the community in a multitude of ways. Yet, for the sake of the sacred environment, it is not being permitted – FOR DECADES.

    I think that outside influences have brought about this resolution. If it were not so, why was it not written following the Exxon Valdez incident?

    Oh, I forgot, the EP is in the house.

    • Anyone know what the unemployment rate in that area of Alaska is????

      Not only am I conviced that the Green Patriarch is actually the Poverty-Promoting Patriarch but I am fairly certain that if you follow Green Orthodoxy down the path it is going that it kills jobs and promotes all of the pathologies that damage civil society.

      All of this EP/Green Orthodoxy chatter is cotton candy feel good politics. Lets put people to work in a moral and productive way.

      The best social programs for Alaska, New Orleans and the long suffering Native American people are jobs.

      • That is a glaring weakness of the alarmist position is it not – no wholeness, no attempt to link “stewardship” to the rest of man’s life. Only survival, and even that is not linked to the hierarchy of value as we are just supposed to assume that the world the alarmists would have us live in is better than the one we sinners live in now. Meaningful and moral work, not viewing the “environment” as a zero sum game, protection of the environment without deifying it and placing it as a greater value than the children of God, none of this seems to be taken in a serious or understandable way by these Christian alarmists. It really is a twisted and unthoughtful thing, a “green patriarch”…

  2. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Watched the video. That’s an example of environmentalism run amok, more specifically environmentalism that does not value the person as part of the environment.

    • I haven’t watched the video, but the direction of your argument is the familiar and specious antinomy of man vs. nature. The issue of medivacs vs. automobiles is a typical iteration of this flawed rhetoric, the emotional appeal – making recourse to alarmism in order to bowl over the opposition.

      The fact that several credible Orthodox voices resonate on the same frequency of environmental caution in the context of a traditional, uncontroversial reading of plain old Judeo-Christian stewardship principles, one would think, would elicit a positive response. But instead, we are disappointed to hear the notion of conservation dismissed out-of-hand, generally in these pages in a way which side-steps the actual issue: the real existence of humanity in the world, our physical dependence on God’s good creation, and our Adamic responsibility to the kosmos.

      I am consistently let down by the intellectual squeamishness of these posts, which refuse to meet a crisis head on and instead take refuge in outdated political posturing. When leaders of the Orthodox churches speak out, we ought to give them a good listen, on their own terms.

      Are you actually saying that native Alaskan Orthodox are a bunch of opportunistic watermelon poseurs? And that the Ecumenical Patriarch is an insincere phony liberal?

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        Watch the video. Then reply with more specificity. Your objections are fuzzy and can’t be answered without descending into the same fog.

        All your post shows is that you disagree with some positions. Fine, but not really relevant. You have to explain why you disagree.

        Are you actually saying that native Alaskan Orthodox are a bunch of opportunistic watermelon poseurs? And that the Ecumenical Patriarch is an insincere phony liberal?


        (Caveat: On the AOI Blog we have little patience when moral posturing substitutes for clear thinking. This doesn’t mean you have to agree. It means that finger-wagging isn’t an argument.)

  3. George Michalopulos :


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