Government, corporate interests and non-profits have failed to address the climate change crisis. What about the world of religion? Concern for the environment has become so acute that a recent president of the prestigious American Academy of Religion used her annual address to call on all religious groups, seminaries and people of faith to step forward in the fight against climate change, calling it the “greatest moral issue of our time.” (Laurie Zoliff)
Increasingly, voices from a variety of religious and spiritual traditions are bringing the link between religion and climate change to national and international notice, from the Green Seminary Movement and the 2015 Papal encyclical, to conferences ranging from the purely academic to interfaith meetings such as the World Parliament of Religions, and to the growing social activist emphasis on environmental justice and the historic Paris Agreement of 2015.
Cherry Hill Seminary has identified additional concerns which will arise as climate change brings with it inevitable geographic, political, economic and life changes. As the religious community continues to lead the call for measures which may reverse damage to the environment, we must also prepare for the pastoral needs which naturally follow: financial loss, homelessness, unemployment, alcoholism, human migrations, terrorism and more.
Environmental activism can push our political and corporate leaders to change their way of doing business, but spiritual leadership is vital to addressing the depression, family strains, illness, disorientation from displacement, that result from climate change, as well as the feelings of helplessness and anger which lead to violence.
At The Greening of Religion: Hope in the Eye of the Storm we will probe the ways that our society is changing because of the environment. Papers represent an array of religious frameworks, including Theravadan Buddhist, Druid, Jewish, Hindu, Christian and others. The keynote presenter, Bron Taylor, brings an interdisciplinary approach which blends religious studies, activism and the application of nature’s lessons to a rapidly-shifting societal landscape. Participants will ponder what is the meaning of hope in such an approaching storm, how to face its challenges in a hopeful way, and how our ministries and spiritual lives will adapt to the needs of a world out of balance from climate change.
Leading up to the conference, Greening will make available weekly readings and resources to provoke thought in preparation. During the conference, which will begin with a ceremony by our South Carolina Native American leaders, we expect three key things to take place: 1) participants will be challenged in their perceptions of what climate change really means to the world; 2) participants will derive a new understanding of how religion or spirituality can play a unique role as the world undertakes this new journey; 3) participants will be called on to identify their own role in offering hope and strategies for the most important thing they feel they must do on their return home. Follow-up to the conference will include an invitation to join a social media site where participants share their ideas, activities and questions on an ongoing basis in order to build a network of mutual support and learning.
The Greening of Religion: Hope In the Eye of the Storm is a two and a half day event in Columbia, South Carolina, held at the University of South Carolina. Attendees come from all over North America and beyond at the most beautiful time of year, enjoying the spring bloom of azaleas and dogwoods on this historic campus. We anticipate approximately 75-100 participants, among them activists, sociologists, bioethicists, anthropologists, seminarians, clergy, planners, philosophers, scholars and students from across the continent and beyond. Each of these participants may be expected to return to their religious groups, communities, classrooms and organizations with a fresh message and strategies to share.
In addition to keynoter Taylor and paper presenters, special speakers include Wendy Griffin, Ph.D., Academic Dean of Cherry Hill Seminary, Jonathan Leader, Ph.D., University of South Carolina Department of Archaeology and Anthropology and Head of the S.C. Office of the State Archaeologist, Will Moreau Goins, Ph.D., Chief, Eastern Cherokee and Southern Iroquois of S.C., and Rabbi Arthur Waskow, founder and director of The Shalom Center.
Bron Taylor, Ph.D., is Professor of Religion, Nature and Environmental Ethics at The University of Florida, a Carson Fellow of the Rachel Carson Center, and an Affiliated Scholar with the Center for Environment and Development at Oslo University. As an interdisciplinary environmental studies scholar, Taylor’s research and teaching engages the quest for environmentally sustainable and more equitable societies. Author of Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future and his most recent book Avatar and Nature Spirituality.
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