In step with CTS’s longstanding concern for matters of ecological justice and sustainability, Prof. Felicity Kelcourse began working in 2016 with members of the student body, faculty, and staff toward CTS’s certification as a Green Seminary. This effort led to the formation of the CTS Green Team, which now works to more fully integrate eco-justice into the seminary’s curriculum and institutional life more broadly. Prof. Kelcourse said, “From a theological standpoint, we must take seriously the reality that we are stewards, not owners, of God’s Creation.”
For many years, Prof. Carol Johnston, Prof. Marti Steussy, and other members of the CTS faculty have offered courses pertaining to the environment and its relationship to ministry, theology, and the Bible. Prof. Johnston has written and taught widely on these topics, and she has played an especially important role in making sure they remain a part of the life of CTS. When Prof. Kelcourse became aware of the Green Seminary Initiative, she said that she saw it as an opportunity “to continue this legacy.”
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. The second conviction is that theological schools 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.” The initiative exists to encourage seminaries “to incorporate care for creation into the identity and mission of the institution.”
Prof. Kelcourse and the Green Team have led CTS to become one of only thirteen schools that are part of the Green Seminary Initiative’s “Seminary Environmental Certification Program.” To do so, they guided CTS through a three year process that included an institutional audit and a requirement to satisfy certain standards that address all aspects of the school, including its curriculum, worship life, and its buildings and grounds.
Courses specifically dedicated to eco-justice are now more regularly offered to students, and eco-justice related matters are now covered in several introductory courses. The next dedicated eco-justice course will be offered as an elective in the 2021 Summer 1 semester and will be open to the public.
Eco-justice elements have also been incorporated into the worship life at CTS, and each year on Earth Day the Green Team plans a special chapel service. In 2018 and 2019, the Green Team hosted a gathering of local eco-activists before and after these special services for an opportunity to network, share resources, and collaborate.
Unfortunately, an ambitious April 2020 celebration of the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day, featuring former First Lady of Indiana Judy O’Bannon, had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. O’Bannon was set to speak about her recent documentary, Courage, Brains and Muscle: Our Environmental Champions, which featured eco-justice organizations all across the state of Indiana. Prof. Johnston contributed to this important and timely documentary, which can be viewed online.
The Green Team at CTS continues to plan events and raise awareness for eco-justice concerns within the CTS community and beyond. The team meets monthly, and anyone interested is welcome to join. The next meeting will take place on Friday, October 30, from 12:00-1:00pm over Zoom. If you would like to attend, please email Prof. Kelcourse (email@example.com) for the meeting link.