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The intersection of faith and environment will be discussed as Columbia Theological Seminary hosts the three-day, “Just Creation – Shalom for Our Common Home” conference.
Theologians, scientists, activists, artists, and others from across the country will participate in sessions that examine in successive days, earth, water, and air. Taking place in person and online, the conference will help build the types of relationships that will nourish people to face the complexities of the environmental age and empower them to pursue the work God calls for them to do in caring for creation.
It is all why a conference like this is important during this day and age when there are basic water woes in places like Flint, Michigan and Jackson, Mississippi, or natural disasters like the earthquakes in Syria and Turkey, said Columbia Ethics Professor Dr. Mark Douglas, chair of the Columbia Conferences Committee.
“If you’re not familiar with environmental justice, to recognize that our own health as individuals, communities, as society, as the world, is shaped by the health of the wider world, including the natural world,” he said. “Where there is pollution, people suffer.
“So, to think about how to negotiate our engagements with the rest of the world, human and non-human, it is necessary for our own flourishing,” Douglas said. “That is the first part of the draw. The second part of the draw is because this is a phenomenon that is both local and global and it necessarily connects to ranging disciplines of study. To participate in conversations where scientists, and theologians and activists and artists are all thinking about a similar issue from their own particular perspectives and with their own particularly tools may help all of us get a better sense of how we need to engage matters of environmental justice for the flourishing of our families and communities and wider society within the world.”
Highlights of the conference into the three plenary sessions on earth, water and air; the opening keynote address Thursday evening at Decatur Presbyterian Church by the Environmental Defense Fund’s Heather McTeer Toney; the screening of the film, “Flint: The Poisoning of an American City” by filmmaker David Barnhart with discussion that includes Flint residents; and closing address by native American scholar and activist Tink Tinker.
“Our covenant with God calls us to steward, protect, and defend God’s creation,” said Columbia President Rev. Dr. Victor Aloyo. “The psalmist proclaims, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’ (Psalm 24:1), reaffirming our charge to care for creation as trustees of God’s handiwork (Genesis 1:28). We are to delight in and praise God for the abundance and diversity of creation (Psalm 148) and honor God’s covenant established with all living creatures (Genesis 9:9).
“Confronted with the massive crisis of the deterioration of God’s creation and called to a ministry of reconciliation between God, humankind, and creation, we ask God’s forgiveness and commit ourselves to a new way of being that integrates environmental, economic, and social justice,” he said. “Columbia Theological Seminary, in its pursuit of an interdisciplinary and intersectional approach to personal, social, and civic responsibility, is grateful for the development of our Just Creation Conference. We hope this platform continues to express our long-term commitment to our obligations as stewards of God’s creation by proclaiming and modeling a new lifestyle rooted in stewardship and justice, where we work toward the day when all of God’s children respect and share in the goodness of creation.”
For more information about the conference, including registration, go to https://pheedloop.com/shalom/site/home/.