November 2007

The Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter
1.3 (November 2007)


1. Editorial: Religion and Ecology at the American Academy of Religion (AAR)

2. From the Field: “The Green Seminary Initiative” by Beth Norcross, Laurel Kearns, and David Rhodes

3. Focus on the Website: Class Resources

4. Other News and Upcoming Events

1. Editorial: Religion and Ecology at the American Academy of Religion (AAR)

It is already November again, and for many people in the field of “religious studies” (broadly defined) this means that it is time for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion/ Society of Biblical Literature. This year, the meeting will take place in San Diego and is a registration only meeting (not a Forum sponsored event). As many of us prepare to journey to that meeting, let us not forget the place to which we are traveling. It is not just a meeting venue, but is a specific ecological-cultural place to which we travel. On the minds of many will be the recent fires that have devastated the San Diego area; others will think of the ocean when thinking of the area. Hopefully, we will all take time out to recognize and perhaps offset our footprint for attending this conference: fossil fuels, foods we will eat, etc. (If you would like to offset carbon emissions visit, eg: Likewise, and equally important, we will hopefully have time to recognize the beauty of the place we will be visiting. (See for example:
At the conference itself, there will be plenty of “religion and ecology” events to attend. (For a complete list of events, visit: Many of these events are sponsored or co-sponsored by the AAR’s “Religion and Ecology” group,

Perhaps more exciting is that “religion and ecology” events are being sponsored by other AAR groups, such as the Religion and Social Sciences Section and the Person, Culture and Religion group. This month’s “from the field” essay discusses one event that will occur at the AAR: the launching of “The Green Seminary Initiative.” I hope that you find this story as exciting as I do. This issue also includes a focus on the “class resources” section of the Forum on Religion and Ecology’s website, and news and other events.

Whether attending the AAR or not, I hope you will find this latest Newsletter engaging and useful. Please do not hesitate in contacting me should you have suggestions for future issues (

Whitney A. Bauman
2007-2008 Research Associate
Forum on Religion and Ecology


2. The Green Seminary Initiative

Participants in the upcoming AAR/SBL meetings in San Diego will have the opportunity to honor, and to hear reflections from, six of the giants of ecotheology. John Cobb, Calvin DeWitt, Norman Habel, Sallie McFague, Larry Rasmussen and Rosemary Radford Ruether will gather to discuss the unique and significant role that theological education can play in addressing the declining health of God’s creation.

Jointly sponsored by AAR and SBL, the “Sustainable Theological Education” session will include the panel’s reflections on the 40 years since Lynn White’s provocative essay and their efforts to bring a sustained focus on all of creation into mainstream theological education. The panel will also address how seminaries can provide vigorous, visionary leadership in confronting the theological and practical aspects of ecological challenges. The speakers will consider specific ways in which schools that train religious leaders can address environmental issues through scholarship, academic programs, community life, building and grounds, and institutional practices.

This session will lay the groundwork for launching a new undertaking – The Green Seminary Initiative. This initiative will build a broad, diverse, active coalition of faculty, administration and students committed to creating sustainable seminaries – communities that will model care for creation and that will equip pastors and other religious leaders with the tools needed to lead their congregations and communities in responding faithfully to the ecological challenge.

The Green Seminary Initiative builds on the work of Theological Education to Meet the Environmental Challenge (TEMEC). It is also supported by the Forum on Religion and Ecology (FORE), the Center for Respect of Life and Environment (CRLE), AAR’s Religion and Ecology Group, Drew Theological School and the Lutheran School of Theology Chicago.

The Green Seminary Initiative is premised on two convictions. The first is that the religious community has a unique and significant calling to turn back human-caused environmental destruction and to participate in bringing all of creation into health and wholeness. Religious communities express thanks for God’s creation. We remember that we are called to serve and preserve the earth. We participate in God’s covenant with Noah and all living things. We recognize our human failing in our vocation to care for creation. We gather to reverence the beauty and grieve the destruction. Together, we confront the spiritual crisis and reorient our hearts and minds to simpler, sustainable and just lives and to the vision of a renewed creation.

The second conviction is that seminaries should provide clergy and religious leaders with the tools necessary for them to lead their congregations, communities and organizations in meeting their unique call to protect and restore creation. Specifically, they need a creation-centered education that provides the theological, Scriptural, spiritual and ethical bases of creation care and eco-justice. They need to understand the depth of the spiritual and ethical challenges inherent in the ecological crisis. They need to appreciate the breadth of the ecological challenge and to be prepared to respond to its impact on the least among us.

The Green Seminary Initiative fosters efforts by theological schools to incorporate care for creation into the identity and mission of the institution such that it becomes part of its ethos. Specifically, the initiative encourages schools to work in five program areas: education, worship, building and grounds, community life and personal discipleship, and public ministry.

Through education, seminaries can develop foundational and elective courses to equip each graduate with the intellectual and practical tools they will need. Creation care can become an integral part of courses across the curriculum. Lectures, workshops and retreats are well-suited to such learning. Students may participate in field education experiences through immersion experiences and internship projects. Green seminaries can also become centers of scholarship on creation-related topics.

Through worship, faculty, staff and students come together as a community to celebrate God’s presence in creation and to worship with all living things. Worship also affords opportunities for restoring our relationship with creation through spiritual experience, praise, confession, pardon, and petition. Furthermore, seminaries can provide opportunities to develop creation-care worship resources.

Through energy-efficient and sustainable buildings and environmentally sensitive grounds, seminaries can be a model and a laboratory for seminarians on how to limit their environmental footprint. The seminary can also show at the institutional level how to model conservation of water, paper and energy, and use best practices in offices and the refectory. Seminaries also offer on-the-ground practical instruction on the building, financing and administration of creation-friendly buildings and grounds.

Through community life and personal discipleship, faculty, staff and students are encouraged to adopt personal and communal lifestyles that are simple and light on the earth. Food services, transportation, recycling, energy and paper usage will all respect and honor creation. In public ministry, green seminaries can promote ecological commitment in the broader religious community and in the world by offering creation care conferences, workshops and retreats and by providing printed and online resources. Schools can also offer training to local religious leaders through continuing education and other means.

Specific resources for The Green Seminary Initiative are housed at the Lutheran School of Theology Chicago through the Web of Creation at This website will provide resources to assist administrators, faculty, staff and students interested in greening seminaries. It provides reports from a broad spectrum of seminaries on specific actions they are taking, a collection of syllabi for ecological courses as well as resources for more general courses, links to relevant sites and networking opportunities. The site also includes a step- by-step description of how to green a seminary, including a list of “What Every Seminarian Should Learn about Caring for Creation.” To become a contact person for your seminary, to add a report of environmental actions at your seminary, or to submit syllabi, go to, double-click on The Green Seminary Initiative, and follow the instructions.

We hope that you will join us at the AAR/SBL meeting in San Diego on Saturday afternoon, from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m. for what we expect to be an interesting and provocative session on sustainable theological education with the six eminent theologians. In addition, please come to a reception to honor the speakers on Saturday evening, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Sponsored by CRLE, FORE, Drew Theological School, Fordham Press (publisher of Eco-Spirit) and Continuum (publisher of Earth & Word), the reception will allow more casual conversation with the speakers and others interested in greening theological education.

Also, please plan to attend the AAR pre-conference workshop on “Theological Education for a Sustainable Future” on Friday afternoon, from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Sponsored by CRLE and FORE, the workshop will include an open discussion about the successes and failures of previous efforts to strengthen the connections between theological education, animals and the earth. It will also afford opportunity to discuss specific greening efforts at various seminaries.

Please RSVP for the reception and the pre-conference workshop by email to Christine Gutleben at To become involved with The Green Seminary Initiative or for more information about it, please contact Beth Norcross at

Laurel Kearns, Drew Theological School
Beth Norcross, Wesley Theological Seminary
David Rhoads, Lutheran School of Theology Chicago


3. Focus on the Website: Class Resources

Developing a course on “religion and ecology” and want to see what others have done? Need a speaker on “religion and ecology” for one of your existing courses? Are you a student who wants to know where to go to study religion and ecology? Need video resources on religion and ecology? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you should visit the “Class Resources” section of the Forum on Religion and Ecology’s website: There you will find sample syllabi, a speaker’s list, a list of CD ROMs and videos, and a list of places where one can study environmental ethics and/or religion and ecology/nature. As always, we are constantly seeking to update the information on our website. So, if there is something missing that we should add, please email us:


4. Other News and Upcoming Events

A recent article in the Yale Daily News highlights the work that Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim are doing at Yale:

Here is an interview with Sarah McFarland Taylor about her new book, Green Sisters: A Spiritual Ecology (Harvard University Press):

The Recent Conference “Religious Perspectives on Global Climate Change” (with lectures from many people associated with the Forum on Religion and Ecology) is now available for free as a “vodcast”. If you have an mp3 player, visit the following website to download the lectures from the conference:

Upcoming Events
For a more comprehensive list of events, and archive of past events, please visit:

Please follow the links below for more information about each individual conference. The Forum on Religion and Ecology may not directly sponsor the event!

“Restoring an Earth Community: Ecology, Faith, and Religions”
College of St. Catherine
St. Paul, MN
November 9-10
For More Information, visit:

American Academy of Religion (AAR) Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 16-20, 2007

“The Re-Enchantment of Nature across Disciplines: Critical Intersections of Science, Ethics, and Metaphysics”
Second Conference of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture
National Autonomous University of Mexico
Morelia, Mexico
January 17-20, 2008
For more information, visit:

“Green Environment 2008”
Kerala, India
February 3-9, 2008

“Health, Environment and Well-Being: the role of the human sciences”
Durham University and the University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka
Matara, Sri Lanka
February 22-25, 2008
For More Information, visit:

Sponsored by the Forum on Religion and Ecology
Yale Divinity School
New Haven, CT
February 29-March 2, 2008
For More Information, contact:

“Eco-City World Summit 2008”
San Francisco, CA
April 22-26, 2008
For More Information, visit:

“Ecological Theology and Environmental Ethics”
Orthodox Academy of Crete
Chania, Greece
June 2-6, 2008
For more Information, visit:

“Thinking Through Nature: Philosophy for an Endangered World”
University of Oregon
Eugene, Oregon
June 19-22, 2008
For more Information, visit:

“Beyond Paley: Renewing the Vision for Natural Theology”
Museum of Natural History
Oxford University
June 23-25, 2005
For More Information, contact: