Rediscovering the spiritual in God’s creation: Australian seminary creation care conference March 2015

Norm Habel and Philippa Rowland presenting ‘The Serafino Declaration’ on the final day of the conference

 “Rediscovering the spiritual in God’s creation,” was held at the Serafino Conference Centre, in McLaren Vale, South Australia, March 10th-13th. Australian SSA liaison Dr. Graham Buxton (Tabor-Adelaide) and American liaison Dr. Mark Liederbach (Southeastern Baptist) both reflected on different aspects of the conference.

Dr. Graham Buxton reflected, “Approximately 120 delegates attended the conference, with eight keynote addresses, twenty parallel papers, and three Indigenous-based experiences. The diversity of both participants and presentations was a distinctive feature of the gathering, and it was heartening to see so many people from different contexts and traditions taking time out to dialogue and listen to each other. And we all very much appreciated the facilities of the Serafino conference complex, with superb catering throughout the four days, and perfect weather. 

During the last 24 hours of the conference several people were involved in crafting what we have called the Serafino Declaration in which we outlined the perspectives and challenges arising out of the keynote addresses and shared experiences during our time together. The document was presented in the closing afternoon, and subsequently modified as the result of the table discussions that followed. This document represents both an invitation and a challenge … an invitation to consider deeply the insights and concerns raised during the conference, and a challenge to respond within our own particular contexts.

We acknowledge the comments from some participants that more specific practical steps might have been included in the conference program, and so we will be assembling some documents and web-based resource links for those who would value this information. The conference, of course, was not an end in itself, but part of an ongoing process of learning together how we might be better informed and equipped to act responsibly in our care for the natural world.

We believe that ‘The Serafino Declaration’ is a faithful record of what took place during the conference, and look forward to its dissemination throughout all appropriate networks. An edited volume of conference papers, which will include as many parallel papers as possible, will be prepared for publication over the coming months.

Dr. Mark Liederbach, from Southeastern Baptist Theoloigcal Seminary, attended the conference with his family. Below are a few of his reflections:

Recently I had an opportunity to travel with my family to attend a Rediscovering the Spiritual in God’s Creation conference held South Australia.  The conference was hosted by one of our Seminary Stewardship Alliance member institutions Tabor Adelaide seminary under the leadership of Dr. Graham Buxton.    The conference was a unique blend of scholars and laymen from many and varied faith commitments and perspectives.  Keynote addresses from Dr. Paul Santmire (author of the influential book The Travail of Nature), Dr. Robert White (Professor of Geophysics at Cambridge University) and Rev Dr. Vicky Balabanski (Senior Lecturer in New Testament) were highlights of event.  Along with Dr. Buxton and several others I also had the privilege of presenting a scholarly paper at the conference.  This was an important event for me to attend several reasons.  First, it provided me with the opportunity to meet many of our seminary stewardship alliance partners in Australia and develop a shared comradery.In addition, the conference itself provided rich opportunities to meet new potential partners in ministry as well as catalyze new ideas for how SSA might serve members of our Alliance.  Third, we hope to see the Australian SSA schools form a regional cohort and this conference provided a good opportunity for the member institutions to spend time with one another.  Finally, I believe that the conference as a whole was an important step in forwarding the efforts of creation care for the entire country of Australia and it is my hope that by seeing how Tabor Adelaide was able to bring so many diverse people and ideas together for this conference that Dr. Bible and I will be able to learn and help facilitate positive movements regarding creation care back here in the United States and perhaps other countries as well.   

Conference venue, South Australia

Conference venue, South Australia