Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico
Seeking God's Grace for the Gulf
The earth is the Lord's, and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas and established it on the rivers.
- Psalm 24:1-2
On April 20, 2010 the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers and injuring dozens more, and allowing oil to flow unchecked from the broken wellhead into the Gulf of Mexico. Between April and August, when the well’s owner, British Petroleum (BP) finally managed to cap the deepwater well, an estimated 4.9 million barrels (176.4 million gallons) of oil gushed into the waters of the Gulf off the Louisiana coast.
At the height of the spill, officials closed more than one-third of the waters in the Gulf to fishing, idling commercial and sport fishing boats in one of the nation’s most productive fisheries. Tourism also suffered during the height of the summer travel season, impacting hotels, restaurants and other businesses along the coast.
Now that the well is capped, fishing areas are beginning to reopen and travelers are returning to the beaches, but the long term economic impacts of the spill on the economies of Gulf Coast communities will continue well into the future. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound, a similarly productive fishing area, many aspects of the local economy were harmed, including tourism, but also businesses that are directly and indirectly supported by fishermen, such as fish markets and shipping services, marine equipment manufacturers and suppliers and others. The economies of Gulf Coast communities, many of which were only just beginning to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, will likely feel these impacts for years to come.
"And God said, 'Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.' So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters of the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.'" - Genesis 1:20-22
Endangered sea turtles, migratory birds, fish, shellfish and marine mammals such as dolphins have also suffered as their habitats are coated in thick oil. Although state and federal wildlife officials worked hard to mitigate the damage, many did not survive. The oil and the chemicals used to disperse it will remain in the Gulf ecosystem for years to come. In Prince William Sound, oil is still impacting reproductive rates and health for wildlife decades after the Exxon-Valdez spill.
The Gulf's fragile coastal wetlands, already disappearing at an alarming rate, have been badly damaged by the oil as well. These wetlands not only provide habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife, they also provide critical flood protection for coastal cities during the hurricanes and other storms that hit the Gulf Coast at regular intervals.
Now that the oil well is capped, media attention will move on to other things. As people of faith, we remain concerned about the long term economic and environmental recovery of the Gulf, its people and its creatures.
A Day of Prayer and Lament
We encourage you to select a day convenient for you to observe a day of prayer and lament for the Gulf of Mexico. Below are resources to use for a worship service, for a candlelight vigil and for individual and group advocacy.
Join us in seeking God's grace for the Gulf.Worship resources
A Tenebrae for the Earth Vigil resources
ELCA Prayers and Hymns
"Prayer Service for the Gulf Oil Spill," prepared by St. Stephens Lutheran Church in Monona, Wisconsin
NCC Prayers, Litany, Hymns, and Sermon Starters
NCC Prayers for the Gulf
Hosting a Candlelight Vigil - NCC Advocacy
Read more about the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Cincinnati, Ohio responded to the Gulf oil spill with a candlelight prayer vigil and community art. Read the story.
Petition for a Comprehensive Response to the Oil Spill ELCA letters and statements on the Gulf Oil Disaster
Bishop Hanson's letter ELCA News Stories
Living Earth reflections
05.05.10 Mississippi Lutherans Open Camps for Volunteers in Oil Spill Cleanup Caring for Creation ELCA Social Statement
06.28.10 ELCA Presiding Bishop Calls Oil Spill in Gulf 'Heartbreaking'