Green Seminary News

Enjoy this album from our recent Symposium on Ecologically Informed Theological Education:  Implications for Teaching, Learning and Seminary Life.

The Symposium is part of the Seminary Environmental Leadership Initiative, which is funded through a grant from the Luce Fund for Theological Education, an initiative of the Henry Luce Foundation’s Theology Program.





With its legacy and ongoing commitment to bridging the depth and wisdom of theology with the powerful call to public action and social justice, Union Theological Seminary now looks towards its role as a servant-leader in the movement towards Earth-honoring faith.

Union's call to the Earth is based in a clear and strong recognition that the ecological crisis of our time stands as one of the most profound theological issues we have ever faced as a living species in interdependence with all other species and with the Earth. Union also recognizes that our ecological crisis is one of the most profound social justice issues of our time, and that we, as a community of faith, must be grounded in our concern in concert with the concerns and interests of those who have been socially and economically marginalized by the practices and ideologies which have created the crisis we are now in in relation to our Mother Earth.

Over the past few years students, faculty, and administrators have begun to create programs and initiatives that mark Union's increasing commitment to Earth-honoring faith. In our classrooms, the questions of eco-theology and environmental justice have begun to take seed and bloom in the deep explorations of faith and action we explore together. 

Earth-honoring courses in recent years at Union have focused on:
-Idol Meat and Vegetables: Towards a New Testament Theology of Food led by preeminent Pauline scholar Dr. Brigitte Kahl
-Eco-Theology and Post-Colonial Criticism led by visiting scholar Dr. Jea Sophia Oh,
-Eco-Feminism and Earth Spirituality Around the World by leading eco-feminist scholar Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung
Ecology and Faith-Loving Cooperatively in Creation led by visiting scholars Rabbi Larry Troster, Cynthia Peabody, and Dr. Robert Pollock from the Earth Institute at Columbia University
-And two courses led by Green Seminary Initiative board member and Union Emeritus Dr. Larry Rasmussen on Religious Ethics and Ecology-Decisive Alliance? and Communities We Can Count On: A Response to Climate Change and a New Epoch

The Edible Churchyard at Union Theological Seminary is a student-led initiative promoting urban agriculture, food justice, and Earth-conscious lifestyles within the Union community and in concert with the vibrant environmental justice movements in neighboring Harlem. The Edible Churchyard has created both a organic vegetable, herb, and flower garden on the roof of McGiffert Hall on the campus, and is also developing a native-plant garden in the north quad of the Seminary grounds.

One of the alternative eco-creative spaces that the Edible Churchyard facilitates in regular community cooking classes, which encourages our Union community to experience the sacred experience of communal eating, and also to understand simple and effective ways of overcoming the challenges of eating healthy in an intense urban and academic environment.

The Edible Churchyard has led annual Adopt-A-Plant programs to encourage community members to participate in the sacred grounding of our growing projects, and they have also promoted community composting in the student residence halls. The Edible Churchyard is also spearheading efforts to work with GrowNYC to participate in their city-wide pilot program for centralized composting in residential buildings.

Union Theological Seminary is also in the beginning stages of participation in GreenFaith's pilot Green Seminary certification program, which would give the Union community an opportunity for a comprehensive "greening" of the curriculum, buildings and grounds, and community spaces.

The Union Food Lab is a new initiative developed in the past year which aspires to renovate Union's multi-story kitchen facilities to act as an incubator for local food projects and culinary training spaces from the surrounding neighborhoods.

Led by the Ecology Caucus, worship at Union continues to acknowledge the sacred inherent nature of the Earth as a ground to connect us to the Divine. In the past year the Ecology Caucus has led worship service based on the ancient English practice of Rogation, as a well as a service which considered the moral and spiritual imperative of divestment from fossil fuels. The Edible Churchyard is also a developing a worship program for its rooftop garden which would allow aspiring ministers of all faiths to develop the connection between seeding, weeding, harvesting, and composting as tools of worship experience for their own personal development and as something to bring with them to teach in their own faith communities.

Union's public Earth-honoring ministry included the efforts of Climate Justice, which educates and connects community members in regular meetings and actions to issues of ecology and environmental justice in New York City.

Union is also making a commitment to divest from fossil fuels such as coal and oil in their financial portfolio. Union will also be hosting a international interfaith Religions and the Earth conference from Sept 19-21 in conjunction with the UN gathering of global leaders in preparation for the 2015 Paris international climate summit and the concurrent Climate March led by