January 29, 2020—The Green Seminary Initiative (GSI) has certified the efforts of Columbia Theological Seminary through the Seminary Environmental Certification Program (SECP), which is a 3-year process designed to provide the structure, guidance and support seminaries to further develop their institution’s commitment to creation care. In 2017, Columbia Theological Seminary began as one of fifteen seminaries across the United States and in Costa Rica to make the commitment to integrate environmental care into all aspects of their institutional and community life. SECP was originally launched in 2016 by the Green Seminary Initiative, a program of Drew Theological School and GreenFaith.
“For us, this began several years ago with the creation of a new Sustainability Commission instituted by then-President Steve Hayner,” said Marty Sadler, Vice President for Business and Finance who chairs the commission. “We knew we needed a cross-section of committed representatives from faculty, staff, students, and alumni to serve as our ‘Green Team’. Together we conducted a self-audit of existing environmental practices across five key areas: (1) Education, (2) Liturgy, Ritual, and Worship, (3) Building and Grounds, (4) Community Life, and (5) Public Leadership.”
Over the past three years, new initiatives were planned to further develop curriculum, liturgies for worship, food services, recycling, the use of green cleaning products, and new LED light fixtures. The seminary also continues to seek ways to reduce water use, waste, and its carbon footprint. Other efforts include an annual Creation Care Sermon Award and marking Earth Day by participating in an “Energy Sabbath.”
Students from the campus group SAGE (Shaping Attention to God’s Earth) have had a leadership role in many of the projects on campus, including the construction of a renewable rainwater capture system for storage of about 1,500 gallons of water near the garden. Liaisons from SAGE are on the Sustainability Commission.
Columbia Seminary also created a new Community Garden Sanctuary, now used in partnership with the Global Growers Network. Global Growers supports a network of independently managed farm and garden sites in and around metro Atlanta, by providing technical assistance, educational opportunities, and leadership development. Each of the six Global Growers plots are managed by an immigrant or refugee family or individual.
Columbia Theological Seminary has two buildings, the Vernon S. Broyles Jr. Leadership Center and the New Residence Hall, which have earned the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification by the United States Green Building Council. Both were designed by the architecture firm of Lord Aeck Sargent. It is hoped that other buildings will be retrofitted with similar measures.
More About the Green Seminary Initiative
The Green Seminary Initiative (GSI) fosters efforts by theological schools and seminaries to incorporate care for creation into the identity and mission of the institution, such that it becomes a foundational part of the academic program and an integral part of the ethos of the whole institution. GSI believes 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. GSI strives to help theological schools 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. Learn more at www.greenseminaries.org.
More About Columbia Theological Seminary
Columbia Theological Seminary is “cultivating faithful leaders for God’s changing world.” As an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Columbia Seminary is a community of theological inquiry, leadership development, and formation for ministry in the service of the Church of Jesus Christ. Columbia Seminary offers six graduate degree programs and dozens of courses and events as a resource for church professionals and lay people through The Center for Lifelong Learning. For more information, please visit www.CTSnet.edu.
Director of Communications