The Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter
2.8 (August 2008)
Welcome to the August issue of the Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter. We are happy to have the privilege and honor of being the new Web Content Managers and Newsletter Editors for the Forum. While taking on this new role, we would like to extend our thanks and congratulations to our colleague and good friend Whitney Bauman for his excellent work with the Forum website and newsletter. We wish him the best as he moves on with his work as Assistant Professor of Religion and Science at Florida International University in Miami. We’ve worked closely with Whitney since we began doing bibliographic research for the Forum in 2006. While we try and fill Whitney’s shoes, we will both be living in Berkeley, CA and studying integral ecology as doctoral students in the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program at the California Institute of Integral Studies.
Approaching the end of the summer, we are given time to reflect on the ways in which our relationship with the environment have changed during this season. As for the two of us, we have had the pleasure of attending a few conferences that have addressed the intersection of religion and ecology.
During the summer solstice, we were attending an environmental philosophy conference, Thinking Through Nature: Philosophy for an Endangered World, which was held at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon on June 19-22 (http://www.uoregon.edu/~toadvine/TTN/index.html). Many presentations at this conference touched on themes related to religion and ecology, including panels that focused on Environmental Philosophy in Asian Traditions, Indigenous Perspectives on Knowledge and Place, and two panels addressing the complex relationship between nature and transcendence in Western philosophical and religious traditions.
On July 17-20, we attended the conference on Thomas Berry and the New Cosmology, which was held at Sophia Center at Holy Names University in Oakland, CA (http://uniquewebdesignandprinting.com/sophia). With beautiful music, poetry, presentations, and interactive dialogues, this conference celebrated the pioneering work of Thomas Berry and explored various ways in which his vision of the New Cosmology is being enacted and embodied in efforts to achieve an Earth community of sustainable and mutually enhancing relations. There were many inspiring and insightful presentations, including talks given by Mary Evelyn Tucker, John Grim, and Brian Swimme.
On August 7-10, at JFK University in Pleasant Hill, CA, there was a conference on Integral Theory in Action: Serving Self, Other, and Kosmos (http://www.integraltheoryconference.org). This conference included many presentations that expressed integral approaches to ecology, according to which theoretical and practical issues of ecology are addressed by crossing disciplinary boundaries and integrating multiple (and even contradictory) perspectives, methods, and values. We hope that this season has been as educational for you as it has for us.
We’re here for you, the Forum community, so let us know if there’s anything we can do for you. Please feel free to send us (email@example.com) any information about news items, upcoming events, conferences, or publications related to issues of religion and ecology, and we will consider how we could include it within our newsletter or website. We look forward to helping in any way we can to facilitate deeper engagements with the growing field of religion and ecology.
Sam Mickey and Elizabeth McAnally
The Forum on Religion and Ecology
Berkeley, CA, USA
2. From the Field: Rev. Franklin E. Vilas, D.Min. “Creation Season Surfaces Worldwide”
A news clip on the American Episcopal Church’s website of June 06, 2008 reads as follows:
“(Lambeth Palace) Church leaders in the United Kingdom have called upon Christians to use the period from September 1 until October 4 as an opportunity to put the environment at the heart of their worship. The ‘Time For God’s Creation’ initiative, which would run annually, follows a resolution made at the Third European Ecumenical Assembly in 2007, which was attended by representatives of Europe’s Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant churches, that the period ‘be dedicated to prayer for the protection of Creation and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles that reverse our contribution to climate change.’”
This news item caps a process that began in 1991, when the Rev. Philip Wilson, rector of the Church of Redeemer in Morristown, New Jersey, had the inspiration to initiate a liturgical season in the Christian annual cycle dedicated to God the Creator, and to the Creation itself.
An earlier observance, called the “Environmental Sabbath,” had been promoted by the Interfaith Partnership for the Environment, an advisory group to the United Nations Environment Programme, through a publication entitled Only One Earth. Celebrated at the Rev. Philip Wilson’s church in 1990, it had been an impressive witness to the concern of all faiths for the health of the Earth, and had concluded with a Peace Pipe Celebration on the Morristown village green, led by Native American Chief Roy Crazy Horse of the Lenape nation.
But such short celebrations only touch the human mind for a brief period. Wilson conceived of a season that would stretch for eight weeks, from St. Francis’ Day in early October until the Advent Season of the Episcopal Church in December, thus exposing believers at all levels of their being, physical, mental and spiritual, to the concepts of environmental stewardship and ecological justice.
In a neighboring parish, St. Paul’s Church in Chatham, NJ, the season was celebrated in 1992, and members of that church began spreading word about the Season to other churches in the United States and abroad. During the subsequent decade of the 1990’s, many Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran congregations in the United States received information on the Rev. Wilson’s inspiration from St. Paul’s. Material was also sent to Australia and to England.
In Australia, the Creation Season became a national ecumenical event, as the Lutheran Church developed a four week season, and promoted material on the internet. (For further information, check www.seasonofcreation.com.) From there, the idea of the Season spread to New Zealand, and then to Europe where the Third Ecumenical Assembly in 2007 affirmed this liturgical celebration, as recorded in the news clip above.
The original eight week Creation Season as celebrated at the Church of the Redeemer in Morris-town, NJ and in St Paul’s Church in Chatham, NJ, incorporated the season of the fall harvest, and utilized new vestments and altar hangings which were the color of the changing leaves of the American Northeast–apricot. The altar hanging featured an image of the Earth from space, along with green vines. The priest’s vestments were covered with images of the flora and fauna of Northern New Jersey, and the chasuble showed a vine in all of its stages of growth.
The liturgical service contained special scriptural readings celebrating the Creation, along with contemporary readings by such environmentalists as Thomas Berry, John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, and Ann Morrow Lindbergh. The music and preaching, church school lessons and adult education were utilized to deepen commitment to an understanding of the spiritual nature of the Creation. At St. Paul’s, a major art exhibit was featured in the sanctuary during the Creation Season.
For St. Paul’s in Chatham as well as for other churches that celebrated the Creation Season over a long period of time, it became one of the most inspirational and involving seasons of the year, drawing members of a younger generation to worship which honors the Earth as a gift from God. It also fueled the development of environmental activism, as members of local congregations discovered spiritual mission through their deepening sense of the sacredness of all of life.
It should be noted that similar liturgical expressions have appeared in other of the world’s religions as well as in Christianity. Notable have been leaders in the Jewish and Muslim Faith, who have gone to their own scriptural heritage to rediscover God’s Creation at the core of their faith. They have been supported in that effort by the publication of Earth and Faith, a handbook on interfaith response to the ecological crisis, by the United Nations Environment Programme in the year 2000. The Forum on Religion and Ecology was active in this process.
3. Focus on the Web: The Shift to Yale
We are pleased to inform you that the Forum on Religion and Ecology and the website have officially moved to Yale. This is because Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim have appointments to teach in the joint program in religion and ecology between the Divinity School and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. They also have appointments in the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics and the Religious Studies Department. We are extremely grateful to the Center for the Environment at Harvard, which has hosted the Forum website for nearly ten years. Our special thanks to Michael McElroy and Dan Schrag, the directors of the Center.
Please be sure to change any saved links you may have to the new site:
Our new website will continue to have the same information and format, and we will continue to update it regularly. Our old website will still be up for a while longer, but it will not include new updates.
4. The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability, by James Gustave Speth
How serious are the threats to our environment? Here is one measure of the problem: if we continue to do exactly what we are doing, with no growth in the human population or the world economy, the world in the latter part of this century will be unfit to live in. Of course human activities are not holding at current levels—they are accelerating, dramatically—and so, too, is the pace of climate disruption, biotic impoverishment, and toxification. In this book Gus Speth, author of Red Sky at Morning and a widely respected environmentalist, begins with the observation that the environmental community has grown in strength and sophistication, but the environment has continued to decline, to the point that we are now at the edge of catastrophe.
Speth contends that this situation is a severe indictment of the economic and political system we call modern capitalism. Our vital task is now to change the operating instructions for today’s destructive world economy before it is too late. The book is about how to do that.
James Gustave Speth, a distinguished leader and founder of environmental institutions over the past four decades, is dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University. He was awarded Japan’s Blue Planet Prize for “a lifetime of creative and visionary leadership in the search for science-based solutions to global environmental problems.” He lives in New Haven, CT.
Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology
This journal has as its focus the relationships between religion, culture and ecology world-wide. Articles discuss major world religious traditions, such as Islam, Buddhism or Christianity; the traditions of indigenous peoples; new religious movements; philosophical belief systems, such as pantheism, nature spiritualities and other religious and cultural worldviews in relation to the cultural and ecological systems.
Focusing on a range of disciplinary areas including Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Geography, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Sociology and Theology, the journal also presents special issues that center around one theme.
To receive a free sample copy of Worldviews, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit: http://www.brill.nl/wo.