In the late 1990s, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment was searching American faith communities to find best examples of environmental justice work. Following on a few previous compilations, this collection of 35 example stories of projects from across the country was published in 1997. In a parallel effort, the local community leaders of these projects wrote letters highlighting their work to share with the Clinton administration in Washington, DC. Those letters were received by Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt and Vice President Al Gore, who met with senior religious leaders in a series of meetings in DC to learn about the environmental justice work of faith communities.
In this work, Sallie McFague unites her love of hagiography, the study of the saints, and the urgent need to address overconsumption in the economy and the environment. McFague suggests a close study of lives of the saints. Here specifically, she considers Simone Weil, John Woolman, and Dorothy Day, in the hope that contemporary believers may find a path from belief to faith-inspired action. A kenotic lifestyle, one of self-emptying, the author sees reflected in the lives of the saints considered here. She sees the unified path to kenosis inspired by the “wild space” of voluntary poverty, the awakening of the saint through this poverty to material needs of others, the increase in view of the self to include a universal self, and finally the connection of the kenotic lifestyle to the personal and public spheres of life.
Speaking specifically to middleclass readers, McFague condemns the complacent comfort in which we live that destroys God’s creation, human and nature alike. She calls for a radical understanding of the divine incarnation and expansion of the self to include the universal. An unsettling of traditional theology in favor of recognition that kenotic love is that which fuels the universe is the good news that can oppose the crisis in the economy and environment. McFague brilliantly weaves the example of the saints with our own call to action which must, like the saints discussed, be personal and public.
Podcasts are a wonderful resource to connect with experts and learn more about many topics. For faith leaders and laity alike “ecofaith on air” is a wonderful resource to learn more about perspectives in ecotheology. Started in April 2015, they have provided many conversations, panels, and interviews that can be accessed on podcast platforms. The podcast concluded in January 2019, but you can access old episodes that span such topics as World Environment Day and the Cosmic Christ. Episodes range in length from under ten minutes to about an hour.
In September 2019, the Beecken Center and the Center for Religion and the Environment are offering a conference that approaches the connections of faith and ecology to trees and forests. Presenters include Matthew Sleeth, MD, Karen Kuers, PhD, Connie Keetle, and Robert Gottfried, PhD. This conference plans to investigate how trees natural interactions with the ecosystem around them and scripture’s engagement of trees may teach us how to live.
To learn more about the conference or to register, click here.
Mary Evelyn Tucker is a scholar at Yale University where she serves in both the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Divinity School. She and her husband, John Grim started the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale. Beyond this, her work has probed the intersection of religion and ecology.
For more information on Dr. Tucker, click here.
Journey of the Universe is a multi-form approach that tells the story of the universe. It emphasizes the interconnected nature of the world, and it calls upon the human community to tend to the world on which we rely. An interdisciplinary approach that engages science, narrative, and humanist wisdom. The material is available in a book, documentary, and online course. Beyond these initial forms, the Journey of the Universe has expanded into a YouTube channel and podcast. The documentary is available on Amazon prime and the book is available on amazon or through your favorite independent bookshop. This set is a wonderful resource that may be used in many ways including in movie features or book groups.
To access the Journey of the Universe website click here.
For an individual interested in ecological justice and ministry, it may be important to attend a seminary or divinity school that is committed to care of creation. Partnering schools are listed below.
- Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
- Boston University School of Theology
- Christian Theological Seminary
- Claremont School of Theology
- Columbia Theological Seminary
- Drew Theological School
- Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
- Methodist Theological School in Ohio
- Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
- The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology
- Trinity Lutheran Seminary
- Universidad Biblica Latinamericana
- Union Presbyterian Seminary, Charlotte.
Many other schools have filed reports with the Green Seminary Initiative. To access a list of those schools and to learn more about the partnering schools, click here.
For the faith community who wants to increase their creation care through the greening of their congregation, the task can seem daunting. However, the “Green Congregation Training Manual” provides a thorough resource that can help guide congregations. This resource is just one of the many that can be found on webofcreation.org.
To access this resource click here.
To access the web of creation website click here.
David Rhoads is a pastor, professor, author, and environmentalist. He was on the faculty at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) beginning in 1988 and is now a professor emeritus. He is the author and editor of many books including, The Season of Creation: A Preaching Commentaryand Earth and Word: Classic Sermons on Saving the Planet. He also was instrumental in the creation of “The Web of Creation,” a resource for faith communities looking to improve their environmental advocacy.
To connect to Dr. Rhoads biographical page on the LSTC website click here.
Creation Justice Ministries is a grassroots organization that works to support ecumenical creation care. Born from the National Council of Churches USA, this group has a long history of advocating for creation justice on local and national levels. You can lean about this organization and their campaigns, and you can access their resources on their website.
To be connected click here.
You can also stay connected with creation justice ministries on Facebook by clicking here.