Eco-Reformation

In light of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this week, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the need for an eco-reformation. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is putting some focus on this idea this year, and a book entitled Eco-Reformation: Grace and Hope for a Planet in Peril (eds. Lisa E. Dahill and Jim B. Martin-Schramm) addresses this topic with chapters from a range of ecotheologians. While the Protestant Reformation occurred as a response to the context of Luther’s day, an eco-reformation would respond to the context of our day. The Protestant Reformation expanded our understanding of our faith and who is included in its proclamation; an eco-reformation expands our understanding of salvation history even further, recognizing that God is at work in all creation, weaving together a story of salvation history that includes not only humanity but also the rest of God’s creation.

What might an eco-reformation look like in the context of your church, your watershed? What might it look like in your preaching, liturgy, and education offerings? What might it look like in your understanding of your church’s connection to your community and world? How might we respond to the urgent context in which we live, allowing the Holy Spirit to reignite the fire of reformation? Will the established churches of our time have what it takes to do the work of recognition, repentance, and re-formation or transformation required to meet the needs of this time and place?

Norman Habel offers a chapter in the book Eco-Reformation entitled “Ninety-Five Eco-Theses,” encouraging us toward semper reformanda (always reforming), to learning how to be creatures of this Earth, preaching a gospel that is good news to the poor and disenfranchised, with humility to learn from those who are better caretakers of the planet than most of us in the Western tradition, and learning how to serve alongside the Christ who chose embodiment. As we look back on this milestone in our collective history, may we also look forward toward eco-reformation, learning how to be disciples of Jesus in each of our watersheds.

Indigenous People’s Day

Today is increasingly being recognized as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and in honor of that, we would like to share a few links about ways that people are working with the Indigenous people of their area through watershed discipleship. Christianity is about loving God, and loving our neighbors as ourselves: in short, about reconciliation and creating right relationships. Through watershed discipleship, we recognize that the work of reconciliation before us in this time and place (especially as American descendants of Europeans) includes reconciliation with God, creation, and the people around us whose land our ancestors settled. This is not easy work, and can feel daunting, at least to me, so here are some resources on what it looks like to do this type of reconciliatory work.

“Becoming Unsettled” by Elaine Enns on Sojourners

An article by Elaine Enns is live now on Sojourners called “Becoming Unsettled.” In it, she tells the story of a region in Saskatchewan where she grew up, Stoney Knoll, a land that had been given to her Mennonite forebears by the Canadian government, and which by treaty belonged to the Young Chippewayans and other tribes from the region. She tells about the work toward restorative justice occurring between Mennonites and the Young Chippewayans since 1976. At that time, the Young Chippewayans began visiting their land, talking to the Mennonite farmers about the broken treaty, a situation Enns describes as “unsettling” for the Mennonites. Weaving in stories of Indigenous rights activism, efforts by Mennonites toward reparations, and the work of re-membering all the stories of that land and its people, Enns offers an example of one community working toward reconciliation in the wake of centuries of church-supported colonization. Check out the article, and allow Christ to speak to your heart about how to work toward reconciliation with the land and people in your own region.

Theological Declaration on Christian Faith and White Supremacy

A group of Christian theologians and activists recently created a statement entitled: “Theological Declaration on Christian Faith and White Supremacy,” regarding the incompatibility of Christianity and white supremacy. The authors particularly note the basis of white supremacy in its “Christian” form on colonization of the land and the harmful theological premises that go along with the assumptions of an imperialist culture. Ched Myers, Randy Woodley, and others who are part of the watershed discipleship network helped form the original statement, and others have since signed on. They are thinking of this statement as analogous to the Barmen Declaration in 1934, when the German Evangelical Church spoke out against anti-Semitism.  I’m inspired by this document, and grateful to hear a message spoken to combat white supremacy in a way that reflects the love of Christ. Here is an excerpt from the declaration:

As a diverse group of theologians, activists and ministers of our respective parishes, congregations, networks, churches, faith communities and educational institutions, we here declare that we are bound together by the confession that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Church.

We publicly declare that what we hold in common in this confession is threatened by the festering infection of Eurocentric white nationalism and white supremacy. Fueled by flawed interpretations of Old Testament purity laws and conquest, churches and denominations in the United States have been deeply shaped by and at times created to sustain European purity and colonization of land, people, and culture. The colonizing spirit declares the self to be uniquely fully human—to have the exclusive right to rule the world. It’s strategy is the creation of racial and gender-based human hierarchy—forsaking God for the idols of domination and control. Eurocentric Christian churches have often been the prime creators, carriers, sustainers and protectors of this malevolent force, which manifests overtly in acts of racial and gender-based violence and covertly in systems, structures, principalities and powers, both beyond and within the walls of the Church.

You can read the rest of the declaration, sign it yourself, and share about it on social media using: #thedeclaration .

Discipulado de la Cuenca: new primer in Spanish

A new primer about watershed discipleship in Spanish was released this week, thanks to a team at Universidad Biblica Latinoamericana in San Jose, Costa Rica. You can order Discipulado de la Cuenca: Una introduccion a la fe y la practica biorregionales here.

Interest in watershed discipleship is spreading in Latin America, and Manuel Casal Lodeiro has been working to translate materials into Spanish, releasing them on the site La creación gime. Check it out, and feel free to share the link and the primer with your Spanish-speaking contacts at home and abroad. Two articles are currently available there:

REHABITANDO EL RÍO DE LA VIDA (AP 22, 1–2): REHIDRATACIÓN, REDENCIÓN Y EL DISCIPULADO DE LA CUENCA (Reinhabiting the River of Life: Rehydration, Redemption and Watershed Discipleship, 2014)

«¡HA CAÍDO EL CEDRO!» LA PALABRA PROFÉTICA VS. LA TALA RASA IMPERIAL (The Cedar Has Fallen: The Prophetic Word against Imperial Clearcutting, 2007)

Josh and Grecia Lopez Reyes recently visited San Jose, Costa Rica, sharing about the new primer and meeting with groups doing watershed discipleship work in Latin America. We will hear more from them on the blog in coming weeks.

Married to the Land

by Todd Wynward

Imagine the U.S. government confiscating your beautiful local church building and grounds and turning its worship space into a public park. Imagine dune buggies and picnickers and diesel engines and fast-food wrappers. Imagine the sanctuary Sunday morning trashed, a victim of the party the night before.

Unimaginable? You bet. But that’s essentially what happened to Taos Pueblo in 1906, when earnest President Teddy Roosevelt violated the U.S. Constitution. Without consulting the Taos Pueblo community, he declared their Blue Lake to be part of Carson National Forest. Read more

Earth Day at Eloheh and the EcoReformation

by Cherice Bock and Solveig Nilsen-Goodin

On Earth Day, April 22, 2017, we planted 150 trees at Eloheh Farm. Three groups worked together to make this happen: North Valley Friends Church, the Wilderness Way Community, and Eloheh.

Solveig Nilsen-Goodin is the pastor of the Wilderness Way Community in Portland, OR, and she had the seed of this idea when she began thinking about what her community might do to mark the EcoReformation this year, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Read more

“Water is Life: Journeying to Justice on the James”: Reflections from the Eco-Stewards Program in Richmond, VA

by Vickie Machado

Recently, young adults hailing from the Willamette Watershed in Oregon to the Biscayne Bay Watershed in Florida gathered in Virginia’s James River Watershed to partake in the 10th annual Eco-Stewards Program, a grassroots community that shapes young adult leaders through place-based experiences that connect faith and the environment. Each year, Eco-Stewards organizes a weeklong gathering in a location that reflects the pressing issues of faith and environmental action. This year’s theme, “Water is Life: Journeying to Justice on the James,” arose in response to the prevalence of water issues—such national events as Flint, MI and Standing Rock—and was hosted in Richmond, VA. Participants received copies of Watershed Discipleship, a natural fit as it addresses the complexity of faith, water, and justice. The anthology acted as our guide, and its themes were reiterated throughout the week in our interactions and dialogue. We assembled in Virginia open to learning the stories of the James River and how its inhabitants are responding to the beckoning call to become disciples of their watershed. The idea, “We won’t save the places we don’t love, we can’t love places we don’t know and we don’t know places we haven’t learned” (Baba Dioum), became a common theme and was expressed even by those who had no connections to the growing watershed discipleship movement. Read more

“Blessing the Waters of Life” conference set for Oregon, September 24-29, 2017

Presbyterians for Earth Care invite all those interested to join them for a watershed discipleship-focused conference, “Blessing the Waters of Life: Justice & Healing for Our Watersheds,” this September along the Columbia River in Oregon. The conference will be held at Menucha Retreat & Conference Center.

A pre-conference gathering from September 24-26 will include a session by Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff on “Native Ways of Being & Knowing.” Merculieff is  a passionate advocate for indigenous rights/wisdom, and a member of the last generation of Aleuts raised in a traditional way. Read more