Review of Watershed Discipleship book on Anabaptist Witness

Check out this review of Watershed Discipleship: Reinhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice that appeared in Anabaptist Witness‘s October 2017 issue. The review is by Matt Balcarras, who tells the story of reading the book while spending time with the Huu-ay-aht First Nation on Vancouver Island, BC. Balcarras weaves together his own story of spending time there with the encouragement and challenge he received from reading the watershed discipleship book. He concludes:

Reading Watershed Discipleship, I felt like I had found something that satisfied a need I previously had been unable to articulate. I’ve read Wendell Berry. I’ve felt a hunger to know my place and to have a place that I am committed to. I’ve thought a lot about how being a follower of Jesus means living as part of creation, enjoying abundance and appreciating boundaries. But I had not yet considered that I should “recenter [my] citizen identity in the topography of creation rather than in the political geography of dominant cultural ideation” (15). Myers and company have convinced me that to live a life of justice and peace means I must live a life that is in right relation with the land. And to do that, I must learn the legacy of Indigenous communities (18) like the Huu-ay-aht First Nation that have so much to teach those of us who hope for a future for our children when this watershed moment has passed.

Webinar: Impact of Environmental Injustice on Low-Income and Communities of Color, Nov. 14, 2017

A webinar on Tuesday, November 14, 2017, will explore the topic: “Impact of Environmental Injustice on Low-Income and Communities of Color.” Sponsored by Presbyterian Hunger Program and Self Development of People, this free webinar will explore the systemic environmental justice issues facing communities of color and low income communities in the United States, offering suggestions about how to get involved. Learn about environmental laws, zoning regulations, the disproportionate burden of negative health impacts due to environmental pollution on communities of color, and how faith communities are helping address these issues. Learn more here. Register here.

Featured speakers include:

Shantha Ready Alonso, Director, Creation Justice Ministries

 

 

Elona Street-Stewart, Delaware Nanticoke, Synod Executive, Synod of Lakes and Prairies

 

 

Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Activist and Author

“Praise is a bodily function”: CAFOs, cows, and reconciliation of creation

What does it look like for creation to praise God? A recent post by Margaret B. Adam on the Creature Kind blog adapts a sermon she gave, which addresses this very question. She notes that “praise is a bodily function,” and that creatures sing their praise to God in their own unique voices, participating in creation’s reconciliation through doing the things they are created to do.

But what about cows raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), also known as factory farms? Can these cows praise God in the ways they’re created to do so? What is our role in enabling other creatures to be able to praise God to their fullest potential?

This is a good example of how to preach about watershed discipleship in ways both biblically grounded and with practical application. Hopefully it inspires you to think about the Christian ethics of animal products in our current economic system, and to consider how you might approach these topics from the pulpit.

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 .