Graduation Year

Spring 2013

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Char Miller

Reader 2

Susan McWilliams

Reader 3

Jerry Irish

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© 2012 Lena R. Connor


An exercise in applied Christian ecotheology, this thesis focuses on a community of Lutheran church bodies (ELCA) in North Central Pennsylvania as they grappled with natural gas hydraulic fracturing in the summer of 2012. In the paper, I employ a combination of theological, environmental, historical, and ethnographic research methodologies to ground my analysis of how this synod of Lutherans to date has approached the fracking boom. My primary research question is: How might the Upper Susquehanna Synod of the ELCA--as a representative body of 131 Lutheran churches that are steeped in tradition--use its history, community involvement, theology, and church structure to address an ecological quandary like fracking? I answer this question in four sections, with each chapter focusing on a different thematic sub-question. Though I borrow techniques from the social sciences, I have written this thesis as a narrative, in order to draw the reader into this fascinating community. Instead of separating my literature review from my ethnographic data, I blend the two together in each chapter, weaving together quotes from synod members with secondary source material. Embedded throughout the report are also maps that I have produced using a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technique to give the story a spatial dimension. Additionally, I use photographs of the synod counties to enhance the reader’s understanding of the region’s ecological and cultural landscapes.