Manifesto from Columbia Theological Seminary

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Columbia Theological Seminary is part of Green Seminary Initiative's certification process. As part of that work, their Green Team has created a manifesto on how theological education needs shift theoretically in order to respond to climate change.

They offer it to the world as a starting point for other schools.

As you look at this document from the context of your school, ask yourself these questions:

  • What would you change?
  • What would you add?
  • What issues or stories would you include in your school's manifesto?

Climate Chaos: A Pedagogical Manifesto

The two latest climate reports, “Fourth National Climate Assessment” and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on “Global Warming of 1.5°C,” are the most dire reports yet to be produced by expert scientists. Within the next ten to fifteen years, the human race will largely determine its own survival, and that of countless other species, in “our common home.” We are at a crossroads, and radical changes in current energy policies, capitalist economies, and collective and individual lifestyles are required to prepare for and mitigate an ecological collapse never experienced in all of human (and hominid) history.

Given such urgency, theological education has no choice except to address the mounting crisis of climate chaos caused by global warming. We acknowledge that none of us and none of our disciplines will go untouched by the physical and conceptual changes wrought by anthropogenic climate change. In such a time as this, ignoring climate change in our teaching, writing, and research is tantamount to theological and pedagogical malpractice. As faculty colleagues joined together in the common causes of sustainability and the flourishing of life on a rapidly changing planet, we (re)commit ourselves to do the following both within and beyond our classrooms:

  1. To teach across our respective disciplines with an acute and abiding awareness of the mounting anthropogenic damage done to our common home;

  2. To embrace the disciplines of grief, rather than despair, over the incalculable loss of life and livelihood among all species in the face of climate chaos and habitat destruction;

  3. To attend to the voices of those on the margins, including environmental refugees, who suffer disproportionately from drought, pollution, flooding, and rising sea waters caused by fossil-fuel based industries and exploitative land use;

  4. To be conversant with the best of science on climate change and on other anthropogenic crises, from deforestation to ocean acidification;

  5. To embrace the disciplines of hope, rather than blithe optimism, as the odds against human survival continue to mount;

  6. To teach in ways that lead to action and activism, working to advocate for environmentally-focused policies, challenge exploitative ones, and reshape cultural norms and individual lifestyles.

We renew our commitment to teach integratively in the face of impending ecological collapse and yet in hope for the ultimate renewal of creation (Revelation 21:5).