Support sought for Green Seminary Initiative
By Leslie Ann Brown ’10 M.Div.
The greening of the faith community also involves the greening of institutions, and one of the panel discussions at the Feb. 28-March 2 Renewing Hope: Pathways of Religious Environmentalism conference was devoted to the new Green Seminary Initiative.
Wesley Theological Seminary’s Beth Norcross, a member of the Initiative’s steering committee, introduced participants to the core aims of the Initiative, which was formally launched in November of 2007 at the joint American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature conference in San Antonio, TX. The Initiative’s aim is to provide resources and recommendations to seminaries.
Central to the effort, Norcross noted, is challenging departmental curricula on core questions such as “ What does the Hebrew bible have to say about the environment?” or “What does church history or systematics have to say about the environment?” The focus is on integrated learning and teaching on environmental stewardship. Crucial to this more holistic awareness, according to Norcross, is the need for “grief work” around the state of environmental degradation.
Dieter Hessel of the Program on Ecology, Justice and Faith stressed the need for “practice-based learning on eco-justice” with a mind toward what he called “double-eco” dynamics—the intersection of environmental concerns with economic justice issues. Declared Hessel, “Greening is not it. Greening is part of it. We must foster a sustainable community.”
Another of the discussion facilitators, Rick Clugston of the Food, Farming, and Faith Program of the Humane Society of the United States, named community service, policy planning and administration, curriculum and teaching, student life, operations and infrastructure, as well as research and scholarship as areas in need of restructuring. Such restructuring is a long-term investment and process, Clugston said, pointing to a more immediate opportunity for seminaries by signing the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment—a higher education pledge of which Yale is a signatory—as a first step in the right direction toward sustainable creation care.
Clugston also highlighted the need for universities to commit to “faculty development and training, and the hiring of faculty with expertise in the areas of eco-justice,” to avoid having an institution’s commitment rest on only a limited number of faculty members.
The Initiative’s website at http://www.webofcreation.org/GreenSeminary is intended to function as a community information resource providing frameworks for interfaith public ministry, training and guides for seminarians and others. Participants in the discussion were invited to submit reports and information to the site to help the Initiative build strength across disciplines and encourage multi-faith modeling. Participants were also encouraged to make environmental reform a top priority in their own seminary alma maters and houses of worship.