by James K. Echols
What is the Christian response to climate change? For this month's authors, Christians are called to be good stewards of the planet given to us by God. Part of that calling is preventing the worsening of climate change by restoring ecosystems to healthy states. Gil Waldkoenig looks at four case studies of Lutheran ministries that have worked in their local environmental and social context to undo the harm caused by humans, while David Rhoads gives examples of what readers can do in their own local contexts. We are especially grateful for the extra measure of Heather Dean’s editorial collaboration in the production of this and the previous month’s issues of Journal of Lutheran Ethics.
Ecological Restoration and Scenes of Grace by Gilson A. C. Waldkoenig
Ecological restoration is a discipline started by conservationist Aldo Leopold in the 1930s. Religious scholars Sarah Taylor and Gertel Van Wieren have provided empirical assessments of ecological restoration among Christians, showing changes in practices and beliefs indicative of the “greening” called for by many others, but seldom empirically documented. Waldkoenig reports four cases of Lutheran involvement with ecological restoration, assesses them in light of practices and beliefs identified by Taylor and Van Wieren, and concludes with a Lutheran theology of ecological restoration in the sites studied and beyond.
Photo by Tricia Koning
From “Church Property” to “Earth-Community” Ethical Actions for Restoring Land by David Rhoads
One of the ways to combat climate change is to help to restore the natural environment. Churches like the ELCA are poised to be able to contribute to this effort because we own land in the form of congregations, social ministry organizations, outdoor ministries, as well as colleges and seminaries. Rhoads argues that we need to reconstruct our ideas of church land ownership to a more stewardship-focused approach. He goes on to list concrete ideas for individuals and congregations to help them realize how many opportunities they have to contribute to the greater movement against climate change.
Restored to Earth: Christianity, Environmental Ethics, and Ecological Restoration by Gretel Van
Review by Laura M. Hartman
Van Wieren’s project examines the practice and theory of ecological restoration, with an eye to articulating its significance for Christian ethics. Ecological restoration is a practice whereby scientists determine how best to repair a damaged ecosystem, and (usually) deploy volunteer labor to do the work of planting trees, eradicating invasives, collecting seeds, conducting periodic burning of prairies, and so forth. The goal is to “restore” the damaged ecosystem to some historically coherent state of health and flourishing. Van Wieren gives her readers a clear and well-researched background into the science behind these practices, including the debates about the meaning and value of untouched vs. restored ecosystems.
The Eloquence of Grace: Joseph Sittler and the Preaching Life edited by James M. Childs Jr. and Richard Lischer
Review by Robert Saler
We may be on the cusp of a minor renaissance in Joseph Sittler studies. The conditions for studying Sittler have been hampered in previous decades by the fact that much of the beloved Lutheran theologian’s output from the late 1930’s until his death in 1987 was in the form of scattered articles, speeches, sermons, and other occasional pieces. Richard Lischer of Duke University and James M. Childs, Jr. (emeritus from Trinity seminary) have curated a powerful collection of Sittler sermons, many of which are here transcribed for the first time. Also included are key selections from Sittler’s theology, such as his famed 1961 “Called to Unity” address and various book chapters related to his theology of hermeneutics, engagement with sacred text, and rhetoric.