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Eco Justice & CTS
By Aram Mitchell, M.A. student and Co-Coordinator of the CTS Eco-Justice Student Group
Chicago Theological Seminary is balanced on the edge of change. We have rooted ourselves in a historic community charged with possibilities for connection and long-term sustainability. We have transplanted our academic and social energy into a LEED certified building full of natural light and verdant views. Our communal situation is fertile with opportunity for contemplation about our posture toward the earth.
I have noticed that environmental justice is not grounded at CTS with an explicit statement of the seminary's commitment. We may be able to point out bits of commitment in parts of our curriculum and in some of our policies. We cannot, however, honestly assert that CTS is a leading force in matters of environmental justice. At CTS, I sense an implicit interest in environmental care and ecological consciousness, but we have yet to set our commitment to the earth in stone.
Our current statements of commitment focus on issues of social justice. What we must recognize is that contemporary humanitarian and social justice issues are encased in matters pertaining to resource consumption and environmental care. The liberation of socially marginalized groups is connected to the liberation of the earth from consumerist, patriarchal, and hierarchal attitudes. We have a prescient opportunity to cast a vision that challenges the status quo with a constructive ecological agenda.
Along with committing to increasing sustainable practices in our administrative operations, social gatherings, and the maintenance of our new facilities, we must recognize the way in which all of our commitments are interconnected. CTS cannot be an instrument of dynamic social and global change without adopting an ecological consciousness. As an institution CTS does not champion a hierarchy of social issues, with one issue demanding priority over another. We cultivate an ecology of commitments, where successful advocacy of one issue is woven together with successful advocacy of all others.
We are not an institution that privileges the comfortable lifestyle of the elite few or that panders to the status quo. What has kept us from openly stating our commitment to the home that we share with so many others?
I propose that CTS instate an explicit commitment to ecological justice on an institutional level. Our commitment will sound something like this:
“In a society with unsustainable habits of consumption, waste and utilitarian disregard for non-human forms of life, we are committed to addressing the devastation wrought by our current behaviors, policies and theologies and to reshaping both practices and beliefs to honor the sanctity of God's created world and to foster health, well-being and a sustainable future for the earth and all its inhabitants.”
By instituting and publicizing such a statement CTS would gain the necessary momentum to further examine institutional practices and priorities, launching us toward and beyond the horizon of our vision: to be an international (and global) force in the development of religious leadership to transform society toward greater justice and mercy.
I believe that if we cultivate this seed of expressed commitment, especially in the soil of this time of transition, we will grow something mighty and lush.