What, you might ask, do churches know about oil pipelines?
Seldom, after all, do you hear a Sunday sermon analyzing the viscosity of bitumen or the long-term impact of triple-digit oil prices on a zero-sum economic environment.
Never say never, but we're simply suggesting it's probably not common fare for those who preach faith in a higher being.
Now, though, churches are jumping in with both feet on the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal. Delegates to a United Church of Canada general council meeting in Ottawa will debate a resolution this week opposing the controversial $6-million Enbridge project that would pipe bitumen from Alberta to the B.C. coast and on to offshore buyers.
As a front-page story pointed out Tuesday, the Anglican Bishops of B.C. and Yukon are already on record as challenging the integrity of the environmental impact review on Northern Gateway. The diocese of New Westminster of the Anglican Church of Canada has excluded Enbridge stock from its investment portfolio.
A letter sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on behalf of 28 Presbyterian churches in the Lower Mainland accuses the feds of weakening environmental reviews and demonizing opponents of the project.
There is, stated Rev. Diane Tait-Katerberg, "overwhelming evidence the government of Canada has already made up its mind about the safety of these projects, and is arranging things so that nothing stands in the way of the development of the oilsands and the approval of these pipelines."
And Kairos - an ecumenical group that includes the Anglican Church of Canada, the Christian Reformed Church in North America, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Mennonite Central committee of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the United Church of Canada - has produced a position paper that says Northern Gateway "threatens the survival of the First Nations whose territory it would cross."
All of which is pretty strong, unequivocal stuff. And a problem for Harper and his government, who have a strong stake in the outcome of the Enbridge debate. While Harper said as recently as this week that the project will be determined by "science, not politics," there's no question it fills a need to keep the economy growing.
As reserves from easy-to-access oil fields diminish and it costs more and more to get a barrel of oil out of the ground or up from the sea bottom, Canada is well positioned to become a "have" nation as a supplier.
But is it worth the risk to our environment? Are there alternative routes? What are the consequences to our economy if the pipeline is rejected?
The issue is not who gets to ask the questions, but whether those questions are rational and well-researched. Churches have a right, and perhaps an obligation, to take a thoughtful position on the issue as much as any other group or individual does.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.