(photo by Pavel Pabjan, Jr.)
It is with great difficulty that I blog today. I find myself in such an awkward place, questioning things that I was certain of and questioning the leadership of a church I love so very much. As you read this, please try to put yourself in my shoes, and prayerfully consider all that I, along with my church family, am working through at this time.
My faith and my farming practices have always gone hand in hand. I feel farming is my God-given purpose in life. I am to do my best at farming by efficiently and effectively using the resources He has provided to feed His people so that they are strengthened and nourished to serve Him. I feel that one of the greatest freedoms we farmers have the luxury of is being self-employed. We choose the management practices that best suit the needs of our land, our animals, our families and our consumers. Each farm is as unique as a fingerprint, even in small, close-knit communities. We have the choice of such a vast array of technologies- that in itself is a blessing.
In a later post, I will describe exactly why my family has chosen to use certain technologies, but there isn't enough room for that today.
The challenge I'm faced with right now is what action to take now that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the "umbrella group" of churches, which my church belongs to, has taken strides to formulate a "Social Statement on Genetics". This has me VERY concerned.
You can read the full draft of the statement here:
Bishop Rindy of the eastern North Dakota synod of the ELCA is a wonderful man. As he spoke at a meeting at my church last night, I have to admit, everything he said made sense, but I still have questions that remain unanswered and I have more "homework" to do on this issue.
First, some facts on the ELCA "Social Statement on Genetics", which includes a section on "Genetically Modified Organism's in the Food Supply":
- All social statements begin as a request to the synod.
- In August of 2005, the Churchwide Assembly authorized the development of the statement.-It will cost $30,000/year, or a total of $210,000 from start to finish. This includes study, printing, etc.
- The draft of the "Social Statement on Genetics" is 63 pages long.
- The "Task Force for ELCA Studies on Genetics" has 18 members, but only includes ONE farmer, "Mr. Linden Olson, farmer and consultant, and member of American Lutheran Church, Worthington, Minnesota." It doesn't appear to me that any of the other members are involved in production agriculture.
When I asked Bishop Rindy about the section on GMO's , he responded that it will be a "document to help Lutheran's talk about genetics in a faithful way" and will explain "how you responsibly use GMO's".
I don't know about you, but I don't think the ELCA has really considered the long-term ramifications this may have on so many levels of our food supply. Maybe they have, and they're okay with the fact that this could have vast negative effects on so many of their farming members, but I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt, as they are still studying this issue and collecting feedback. I'm reminded of when Oprah made a "statement" about beef on her show. That was just a "statement", but it had consumers in a panic.
The basic principle I keep coming back to is that I do NOT believe it is the church's place to give recommendations on farm management practices. Similarly, I do not think it is acceptable that the church tell everyone in town what tires to put on their car, etc. We go to church to worship and study scripture, but from there it is up to individuals to apply the lessons we've learned in our lives.
No matter where you stand on this issue, I encourage you to pray about this, and to comment before October 15th, 2010 at:
This issue will be voted on at the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
(11/12/10- Please note: this was originally written in May 2010. I was not interviewed for today's articles in the Fargo Forum or the Jamestown Sun. Please read my newest blog post on this issue: When Faith & Farming Collide: Part 3. Also, Blogger has an error and I am unable to reply to any comments at this time. THANK YOU for visiting!)