Section VI: Reimagining and Mobilizing Religious Traditions in Response to the Eco-crisis

Track 7: Reclaiming Love for Paradise Here and Now
(Rebecca Parker)

 ….forging an alternative ecclesiology for a just and sustainable ecological civilization

The times urgently require religious communities and spiritual practices that foster engagement, sustainability and joy.  Based on the ground-breaking work in Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire (Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Parker, Beacon Press, 2008), this track will draw on the wellspring of early Christian visual culture and ritual to forge an alternative ecclesiology—one that redresses the tragic legacies of crucifixion-centered theologies that have sacralized violence against human lives, communities, cultures, and eco-systems. 


Rebecca Parker, theologian, Emerita President and Emerita Professor of Theology, Starr King School for the Ministry, United Methodist and Unitarian Universalist minister, and co-author of Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire, A House for Hope , Proverbs of Ashes, and Blessing the World.


Kah-Jin Jeff Kuan, Hebrew Bible scholar, President of Claremont Theological School, Asian and Asian American hermeneutics, advocate for religious pluralism and justice issues in global and local contexts, co-editor of Ways of Being, Ways of Reading: Asian American Biblical Interpretation.

Stephanie May, feminist theologian and Unitarian Universalist parish minister, Wayland, MA. Former managing editor of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, author of Contesting the Theo-Ethical Rhetoric of Home: Feminist and Postcolonial Politics of Space. ThD dissertation, Harvard Divinity School

Cynthia D. Moe-Lobeda, Social ethicist, Professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Seattle University, author of Healing a Broken World, Public Church: For the Life of the World, and most recently Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation, which is recommended reading for this track.

Sheri Prud’homme, Unitarian Universalist minister, Ph.D. candidate, Graduate Theological Union, Interdisciplinary Studies, adjunct faculty at Starr King School for the Ministry, student of deep ecology (with Joanna Macy), author of “Emerson’s Hermeneutic of the Text of Moral Nature” American Journal of Theology and Philosophy (Sept. 2014).

Hanalei Parker, Emmy-nominated film maker, father of four young children, concerned activist for ecological awareness and responsibility.

Session I: Friday, June 5, 2:00-3:30

Topic: Entering Paradise Here and Now

Session leader: Rebecca Parker

An introduction to the earth-centered visual culture of early Christianity and the themes addressed in Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire, with a brief over-view of the resonance of some first-millennium Christian thinkers with process philosophy and theology.


Given the threats to sustainable life posed by the intertwined structural evils of ecological exploitation and economic injustice, what resources of spiritual wisdom and religious practice from Christianity’s first-millennium might hold potential to be helpful and life-saving now?

How might we creatively adapt these resources to forge in our culture settings an alternative ecclesiology for a just and sustainable ecological civilization?

Session II: Friday, June 5, 4:00-5:30

Topic: The Eclipse of Paradise: Christianity’s Second-Millennium Turn to Sacred Violence

Session Leader: Rebecca Parker

An examination of the links between the rise of holy war, racism, colonization, and ecological exploitation in Western European Christianity’s abandonment of ‘paradise here and now’ and turn to crucifixion-centered theologies of redemptive violence.


Where and how do we detect the toxic legacies of sanctified violence in present patterns of ecological exploitation and economic injustice? What frameworks do we see emerging in diverse communities, congregations, and cultural contexts that are life-giving, resistant spiritual alternatives to these toxic legacies?

Session III: Saturday, June 6, 11:00-12:30

Joint session with ‘Entangled Difference’ Track XI.2 and ‘Ecofeminism’ Track IX.6

“Climate Change as Race Debt, Class Debt, Climate Colonialism: Moral Conundrums and Policy Implications”, presented by Cynthia Moe-Lobeda

“Bad Omens, Terrors, Spooky Differentiations: Deconstructing ‘Racial Distance’ in the Face of Ecosystemic Annihilation,” presented by Elaine Padilla


Session IV: Saturday, June 6, 2:00-3:30

Topic: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation: Resisting Ecological and Economic Violence and Rebuilding Life-Savoring Alternatives

A conversation with Cynthia Moe-Lobeda re: her work in Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation (Fortress Press, 2013). Participants are encouraged to obtain and read this book in advance of the conference.

Discussion leader: Stephanie May


How do human beings become what Earth needs us to be— resilient, responsible, loving, restorative, and life-sustaining participants in “this present paradise,” a living, inter-dependent web of life torn by legacies of trauma and injustice, and permeated by the divine presence of ongoing creativity and love?

How might a transformed approach to ritual, baptism and Eucharist in particular, strengthen a spirituality of responsive love for this world, here and now?

Session V: Saturday, June 6, 4-5:30

Topic: Problems and Possibilities in Reading Nature as a Sacred Text and Theo-Ethical Informant

Presentation: “Liberal Theologies and the Hermeneutics of Nature as a Moral Text,” Sheri Prud’homme Presentation: “The Voice in the Whirlwind: Theophanic Texts in the Book of Job,” Kah-Jin Jeff Kuan,

Discussion questions: How might contemporary religious communities orient themselves to discerning ethical and spiritual guidance arising from the earth itself?

Taking seriously that a culture’s ‘read’ of the natural world is shaped by its religious, philosophical, spiritual and moral frameworks, What hermeneutical approaches to ‘nature’—including ourselves as part of nature—might be an advisable practices for an eco-justice ecclesiology?

How might we draw on the sacred scriptural traditions in the Hebrew Bible to relate to the natural world as a source of ethical imperative, ultimate concern, and wisdom?

Session VI: Sunday, June 7, 11:00-12:30

Topic: Dwelling Together in Beauty: Towards an Eco-Ecclesiology

Short Film Clip: “Addiction Planet” and conversation with the film-maker, Hanalei Parker

Presentation: “The Architecture of Morals: William Channing Gannet’s House Beautiful and the Spiritual Impact of Spaces and Places,” Stephanie May


What practices in sacred spaces and places attune us more effectively to the presence of paradise here and now and nourish our vocation to live rightly as citizens of paradise?

What acts of creative resistance and recovery are needed to counter life-harming systems and environments, especially with respect to the visual worlds we create and the sacred gathering and living places we construct?

Session VII: Sunday, June 7, 2:00-3:30

Task: Collective visioning of an eco-justice ecclesiology

For this session we will work together and/or in small groups to produce a framing document for an eco-justice ecclesiology in response to the previous sessions and the overall conference.

Session VIII: Sunday, June 8, 4:00-5:30

Concluding work on the eco-justice ecclesiology framework, thoughts for future work. A closing ritual.

Recommended Advance Reading:

Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker, Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire (Beacon Press, 2008).

Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation (Fortress Press, 2013).