Monday, August 23, 2010

When Faith and Farming Collide: Part 3

At long last, the third installment of my coverage/opinions on the issue of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's development of a social statement on genetics. This has been an interesting journey of growth in my own faith, Jeremy and I studying the Bible together and growing together in our faith, discussion with MANY fellow Christian farmers and religious leaders, and one of correcting misinformation.

I would like to clarify for any who have heard the rumor that Jeremy and I are not "real farmers", that we receive the majority of our income from farming and we do not farm 30 acres, but over 3,000. I've always stood on the principle that "a farm is a farm is a farm", no matter the size or the business/family structure, but I did want to correct that rumor.

So much of what I have written has been published in "soundbytes", so please take the time to read all that I have written in my previous posts on this issue (When Faith and Farming Collide: Part 1 and Part 2) as well as the related comments, so you have a sense of the full discussion.

I also hope that you will take the time to read Romans, chapter 14 and 1 Timothy, chapter 4. It's up to each of you to interpret as you see fit, but for me these verses mean that we should not be judging/condemning each other on what we choose to eat, and therefore how our food is farmed, but we should be GRATEFUL "for everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving..."

I recently wrote a letter to the Dakota Farmer, in response to this column by Janet Jacobson.

Here is my letter:

In response to Janet Jacobson's letter in the October issue of the Dakota Farmer, entitled "ELCA right about GMO warning", I would like to clarify a few things.

Ms. Jacobson said, "I found the Dakota Farmer's coverage of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's draft social statement on genetics profoundly one-sided". The coverage of the issue was spot-on because the synod hearing in Gackle on August 8th was indeed profoundly one-sided. Concerns with the statement were expressed including questioning why the statement was being drafted in the first place, the expense of developing the statement (approximately $200,000), the impact of the statement (Yes, it will be used as a background document when communicating with legislators), the length of the document (63 pages), the scientific language which makes it somewhat difficult to read and the suggestion was even made to cleave apart some of the issues with human genetics and agricultural genetics. If anyone has further questions about the synod hearings in Gackle, a recording is available through the ELCA, so you can see for yourself what was said. I would also gladly provide anyone who is interested with my talking points from the hearing as well.

As a Christian conventional farmer I have, like Ms. Jacobson "spent countless hours studying...the science of genetics as well as the agricultural and social impacts of genetic modification."

I am told the intention of the ELCA is to write a statement that is a "guide for the faithful use of GMO's", than we should be embracing just that, the USE of genetic technology, meanwhile respecting the fact that some choose not to use the technology. It is unfortunate that it seems the ELCA's statement on genetics has opened yet another door to polarize farmers and once again put us in the stalemate of the organic vs. conventional argument. There is no right answer and there never will be.

I respect the fact that there are likely folks who disagree with my take on things and everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion, but I believe it is the responsibility of each individual Christian farmer/rancher who is utilizing genetic technology to analyze the impact of each of their management practices, especially considering God's command for us to be stewards of His creation. This individual analysis cannot be achieved through a social statement. I also believe farms are as unique as fingerprints and to have a vast array of farm management tools and method available and the freedom to choose which ones to utilize is a blessing in itself.

I also hope I am wrong on my prediction that this statement will be twisted by activist groups to fit their agenda because many red flags have gone us as I have been researching this issue and I believe they are chomping at the bit to use this statement against conventional agriculture.

When I said that the ELCA had been infiltrated by the environmental and animal rights movement, I wasn't making that up. I have serious concerns about the direction of the ELCA because on their Rural Ministry website, under "Farming/Ranching Resources" , I found the link to the Humane Farming Association and the statement that the HFA "Gives information on how animals are currently inhumanely raised and slaughtered for human consumption". At the HFA website, I found they are leading a boycott against veal and promoting a vegan diet.

On the ELCA's page on "Caring for Creation" (scroll all the way down, right side), they advertise "The Green Bible: Check it Out Today". This may seem benign, but the Green Bible is published in conjunction with the Sierra Club and the Humane Society of the United States. In fact, a statement from the HSUS director for Animals & Religion Christine Gutelben, is on the jacket: "There has never been a more important time for a resource like the Green Bible. It is essential for anyone interested in a Biblical basis for humane and sustainable living." Sounds harmless, but I think most of us in agriculture are already aware that HSUS is a radical animal rights group with a pro-vegan agenda. Whether ELCA leadership realizes it or not, the ELCA is being targeted by HSUS through their "Faith Outreach" program. The last paragraph of the HSUS page on the ELCA talks about "Luther on why we shouldn't eat animals."

I want to make it very clear that all of my research has been done on my personal computer, and the phone calls to my home I have taken, the presentations I have given, the blogging, has all been done by me on my own dime as an individual because I feel it is important for the future of North Dakota agriculture and the future of the ELCA.

I would like to correct Ms. Jacobson's statement that Farm Bureau has a position on this issue. Yes, I am a proud fourth-generation Farm Bureau member and North Dakota Farm Bureau staff member, but I was not compensated for the time I have spent on this issue and Farm Bureau does not have any policy regarding this issue.

The ELCA's statement on genetics is now on its way to its final form, as the public comment period ended October 15th. In February 2011, the statement will be published at and in August the Churchwide Assembly will consider the recommended proposed social statement and will implement resolutions for its adoption.


  1. Keep on advocating Sarah! As a fellow Christian conventional farmer, I echo all of your sentiments. You are an inspiration.

  2. Sarah, when you write "I am told the intention of the ELCA is to write a statement that is a "guide for the faithful use of GMO's"

    Who is it that told you?

  3. Hi Steve. Thanks for reading my blog. Bishop Rindy of the Eastern ND Synod told me that. He spoke at a meeting our church had.

  4. Thank you for your excellent posts on this issue! I understand that the ELCA now worships a god of secular politics, but still the question remains: is there any political issue anywhere that the ELCA will not involve itself with sooner or later? And is there some aspect of our lives that the ELCA will say, "That's none of our business." or, "God has nothing to say on this issue."?

    The ELCA new god bears an uncanny resemblance to Big Brother.