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Founding SSA partner Wake Forest University School of Divinity has established the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative. Directed by writer-theologian Fred Bahnson, the initiative aims to create new courses linking ecology and theology, as well as help form partnerships between the School of Divinity and neighboring communities. Through conferences and seminars, the initiative will serve as a catalyst for students to enact change. Director Fred Bahnson says, “Over the past seven years, I’ve witnessed the rise of a new faith-based food movement. From congregation-supported community gardens to farmworker justice, there’s a deep desire among people of faith to reconnect with the sources of their daily bread and to those who produce it. Far from a passing trend, I believe this renewed interest in food, justice, and sustainability is driven by an even deeper hunger: the desire to see embodied what the biblical writers call shalom, that graced state of being that results from a right relationship between God, people, and the land. Our work with the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative is to support, nurture, and encourage that shalom.”
For more details and rationale, as well as upcoming event information, visit http://divinity.wfu.edu/food-and-faith/
Wake Forest University School of Divinity’s Fred Bahnson recently visited Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Dr. Timothy Eberhart of Garrett says, “Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary hosted Fred and Elizabeth Bahnson on November 13. Fred was the guest preacher at the seminary’s weekly chapel service, issuing a call to Christians to live gracious and humble lives in harmony with God’s good earth. Afterward, he and Elizabeth met with a group of students, faculty and staff for a lunch conversation about their work and how our seminaries might better form pastors to be faithful stewards of the creation.
George Fox Evangelical Seminary has developed a certification in creation care. Their certification program is designed to:
- Provide a 12-credit concentration in Christian Earthkeeping over a two-year period.
- Create a community of learning that utilizes two-year long seminars and summer immersion intensives.
- Facilitate learning in and from the community, the Earth, and Scripture.
- Expose students to a broad spectrum of authors, experts and practitioners.
- Empower students through theological reflection, spiritual disciplines and community praxis.
While keynoting at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Dr. Sleeth was invited by a 3,500-member congregation in Winston-Salem to meet with their leadership team. Shortly after, the head of a 3,000 member NC Episcopal Parish asked to partner with Blessed Earth. Modeled on our partnership with The National Cathedral, Blessed Earth will work alongside twelve churches in North Carolina to share the biblical call to care for the earth. These church partnerships will include at least four sermons on creation care topics, small group studies formed around creation care curricula, and educational and community outreach. Duke Divinity School will also host a Food and Faith conference as part of the NC outreach.
Columbia Theological Seminary had a contest for students to write a creation care sermon. The winner received a prize and the opportunity to preach their sermon at the Earth Day chapel service. Students were encouraged to “address the intersections of the Bible, the Church, and environmental concerns.”
Founding SSA partner Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg has several projects in the works to make the campus more sustainable. A renovation of an old dormitory building, using an ecologically friendly approach, will result in the opening of the Seminary Ridge Museum. The museum is projected to draw 70,000 visitors each year upon its completion. To highlight the new museum, the seminary has undertaken a Campus Habitat Project. The first phase of the project consisted of constructing a walking path through the campus. Next steps include installing rain gardens in the wet places throughout the campus, to allow for drainage and attract a greater diversity of wildlife. The rain gardens will also provide a haven for several “species of concern” on campus, identified by a local naturalist during a species inventory. Dr. Gil Waldkoening says, “You have to give creation space to be there and breathe.” He also points out that most “greening” efforts are human centered: gardens, recycling, food systems. This project differs in that it allows the seminary’s non-human neighbors to have their place as well. The habitat stewardship on seminary ridge will provide a living laboratory for seminary courses such as “Ecology and Stewardship,” “Ecology and Religion in Global and Interfaith Perspective,” and related offerings.
Founding SSA partners Columbia Theological Seminary and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary have both overseen construction/renovation of buildings on their campuses that have received LEED Gold Certification. Columbia Theological Seminary’s president, Dr. Steven Hayner, says, “Environmental stewardship was a key factor as we planned this new residence hall, and we’re excited that the structure has now been LEED certified for its ecologically friendly design.” Upon the opening of the new Loder Hall, Garret-Evangelical Theological Seminary’s president, Dr. Phillip Amerson, stated, “In the design, construction, maintenance and operations of Loder Hall, we sought to use less energy, reduce carbon emissions and contribute to a healthier environment for students, employees and the larger community. Our hope is that this environmentally-conscious building inspires students to live fully as stewards of God’s creation.” Garrett-Evangelical has also completed an Environmental Stewardship Plan.
Tabor Adelaide Seminary, in Australia, is in a unique position to reach out to other Australian seminaries. The Rev. Dr. Graham Buxton says, “As a founding partner in the Seminary Stewardship Alliance, I believe it is essential that Tabor Adelaide retains its place within the SSA framework in order to provide a more international flavor to the alliance, and it is our expectation that we will have contributions to bring to the table as we continue in this role. However, there is distinct leverage in considering the establishment of an Australian ‘cohort’ of seminaries within the alliance as an adjunct to the existing framework. The purpose of the Australian Seminary Stewardship Cohort (ASSC) would be to provide opportunities for a group of Australian seminaries to confer and to support each other along the same lines as within the SSA. Over the past few months I have been in contact with a number of theological colleges and seminaries in Australia to ask if they would in principle be interested in being part of such a cohort, and to date I have received positive responses from seven institutions. I look forward to that number increasing. The intention is to invite representatives from this group (and others who may express an interest) to Adelaide in November 2013 to meet Matthew and Nancy Sleeth of Blessed Earth, who have indicated their desire to attend in order to encourage the formation of the new SSA cohort. This is an exciting development of Blessed Earth’s original vision!”