Center for Ecological Regeneration: Mission and Vision
April 22, 2022
By Rev. Becky Eberhart, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships at the Launch of the Center for Ecological Regeneration
With the launch of the Center for Ecological Regeneration, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is both deepening and extending the moral and theological commitments already embedded in our existing centers and institutes. In doing so, it’s important to name that ecological concerns, and the recognition of their inseparability from struggles for racial, gender, and socio-economic justice, have long been associated with Garrett.
Faculty Emeritus Rosemary Radford Reuther, who taught here from 1976 to 2002, is widely recognized not just as a pioneer in ecofeminist theology but one of the most important theologians of our time. During her time at Garrett, she, along with such faculty colleagues like ethicist Richard Tholin, and Hebrew Bible scholar Phyllis Bird, integrated ecology into courses, workshops, lecture series, and conferences, as well as a Doctor of Ministry track in “stewardship of earth and persons,” with “concern for the environment, peace and justice, and human well-being.”
In 2007, then President Phil Amerson launched a seminary Go Green Initiative, followed by the Leed Gold certification of Loder and Stead Halls in 2011, and Garrett’s involvement in 2013 as a founding member of the Seminary Stewardship Alliance.
From 2014 to 2017, Garrett shared a joint faculty position with the Methodist Theological School of Ohio in Theological Ethics and Ecology.
In 2016, a Hope for Creation fundraising case statement was drafted with the encouragement of Garrett’s president at the time, Lallene Rector, and board member Robert Phillips, in support of the seminary becoming a hub for ecological theological education, earth-based spiritual formation, and environmental justice advocacy.
A new concentration in Ecological Regeneration was launched in 2018, and in April 2020, after an intensive 3-year process, Garrett achieved certification as one among a few Green Seminaries in North America.
Over the last 15 months, under the leadership and directive of President Javier Viera, and through the generosity of Robert and Marilyn Degler McClean, the dream of a center at Garrett focused on ecological justice, supported by an endowed chair, was transformed in a very short period of time from an aspiration to a reality.
The center’s mission and vision has emerged in dialogue with students, faculty, staff, and administration, as well as with church, community, and movement partners. It is this:
“To spread regenerative eco-theological understandings, earth-based religious practices, and cooperative solidarities for the just healing of wounded socio-ecological relationships in the Midwest bioregion and beyond,” for the sake of “a life-sustaining and socially just future for all peoples and places.”
As I’ve heard the center’s director – Tim as I call him – say, “the Center for Ecological Regeneration is both a fruition of the efforts of countless persons over so many years, as well as a seedbed for so much that will now bloom in the years ahead.”