Lutheran, Episcopal leaders ask for modernization of Columbia River Treaty

6/12/2015 11:00:00 AM

            CHICAGO (ELCA) – In a June 11 letter to President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and other religious leaders, asked that action be taken to modernize the Columbia River Treaty – a 1964 agreement between the United States and Canada to govern together water resources to promote economic growth, wealth and happiness for citizens of the two nations.

            "This earth, all of creation and that beautiful part of it known as the Columbia River, are a gift entrusted to us by God. And this gift is entrusted not just to particular countries or a particular generation, but to all countries and to all of humanity," said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, in an interview. "When we seek to make faithful decisions about the tending of the Columbia River or any natural resource, we must remember that it is not, nor can it ever be, just about us or just about now," she said.
            Citing the ELCA social statement, "Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice," Eaton said the statement "describes humanity's part in creation this way: 'According to Genesis 2:15, our role within creation is to serve and keep God's garden, the earth.'"
            In September 2014, 14 religious leaders and seven tribal and First Nations leaders sent a letter to the Canadian prime minister and U.S. president about the Columbia River Basin. That letter included a "Declaration on Ethics and Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty" and a "Columbia River Pastoral Letter" on which the declaration is based.
            "These leaders requested that you adopt the declaration as a foundation for negotiations between Canada and the United States," stated the June 11 letter signed by Eaton, along with the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop and primate, The Episcopal Church; the Most Rev. Fred Hiltz, primate, Anglican Church of Canada; and the Rev. Susan Johnson, national bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
            A second and similar letter was sent June 11 to Obama and Harper representing the signatures of local religious leaders, including the Rev. Jessica R. Crist, bishop of the ELCA Montana Synod and chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops; the Rev. David H. Brauer-Rieke, bishop of the ELCA Oregon Synod; the Rev. Brian K. Unti, bishop of the ELCA Northwest Washington Synod; and Eaton.
            "We endorse their request and ask that you act now to modernize the Treaty," they wrote. "The Declaration sets forth eight principles for modernizing the Columbia River Treaty that include respecting indigenous rights, protecting and restoring healthy ecosystems with abundant fish and wildlife populations, and providing fish passage to all historical locations. In this time of climate change, the United States and Canada must work together to promote stewardship of shared waters.
            "Rarely do trust responsibility, indigenous rights, and ecosystem benefits converge in such a dramatic and urgent way. Please move forward with negotiations to modernize the Columbia River Treaty, and thereby provide a just and ecologically sound model for resolving international conflicts over water," they wrote.
            The letter is available at, and the ELCA social statement, "Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice" is available at
- - -
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.8 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.

For information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
Associate director, ELCA Publications and Public Relations
773-380-2956 or
ELCA News:
Living Lutheran:


You can receive up-to-date
ELCA news releases by email.