The United Church of Canada is supporting a group from its B.C. wing opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline, but local minister David Wood said that doesn't mean the church is completely against the project.
A motion presented by the British Columbia Native Ministries Council was approved on Tuesday at the United Church's Grand Council in Ottawa. It asked for members of the national church to stand with them against the proposed pipeline, which would stretch from Alberta's oil sands to Kitimat.
Wood, minister at St. Andrews United Church in Prince George, said the motion was worded carefully to allow members to offer their support and solidarity to the B.C. group, without taking a definitive position on the pipeline itself.
Wood said people in his own church have taken their own individual stand on the issue, but there was no formal discussion of the pipeline at the board level.
"I think the best way to describe kit is that there's kind of mixed feelings in the church," he said. "You might have some people who are in favour and some who are opposed. I think by far the majority of people would probably be opposed, some of whom feel very strongly opposed, but the local congregation itself hasn't taken a stand on it."
Representatives from some other local Christian denominations also said the pipeline hasn't been a formal discussion point in their communities.
There were few representatives from northern B.C. at the United Church General Council because most of the province's delegates came from the Lower Mainland. However, Wood said if he was at the meeting, he would have voted in favour of the resolution -- but he stressed the language used was key in getting his support.
"It would be different if I was asked, 'Am I opposed to the pipeline,' " Wood said. "I think like many British Columbians my first inkling would be to say, 'no' but I don't have all the information and I really don't know what the implications are."
A number of other Christian groups expressed skepticism about the pipeline through a document released by Kairos, an ecumenical organization. Like the United Church's resolution, the Kairos paper, titled Ethical Reflections on the Northern Gateway Pipeline, doesn't take a firm position on the project, but does ask serious questions about its risks and benefits.
The nine-page document focuses primarily on the importance of consultations with First Nations groups and suggests much more still needs to be done to ensure First Nations views are taken into account during the approval process.
"Ultimately, there are concerns that the Northern Gateway project stands counter to two much needed priorities for Canada: the affirmation of the right of Indigenous peoples to be self-determining, distinct peoples with an adequate land base and the much needed development of a just, clean and sustainable energy strategy," the report said.
In addition to respecting the rights of aboriginals, Wood said there are a number of spiritual aspects that play into the pipeline debate.
"I think there's a very strong sense of God as the Creator and as the decades go by, Christians are becoming more and more concerned about our treatment of the environment about how we're being poor stewards of creation," he said.