The Common Good
September/October 2007


by David Rhoads | September/October 2007

What every seminarian should learn about caring for creation.

1) The environmental state of the world—basic principles of ecology, critical issues (global warming, ozone depletion, diversity loss, deforestation, desertification, waste, toxic waste, and overpopulation), the human and natural causes of these conditions, and their potential consequences.

2) The human justice issues involved in every aspect of environmental degradation: environmental racism, impact on the most vulnerable, rural and urban issues, global dynamics of poverty and underdevelopment, and neo-colonial exploitation of peoples and the earth.

3) The systemic changes we need to make in the social, cultural, political, and economic structures of our nation, corporations, institutions, and global patterns of interaction to address environmental crises and to create conditions for a sustainable world.

4) Familiarity with national laws and policies (Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, etc.) and global conferences and treaties (Montreal Treaty, Rio Convention, Kyoto Protocol) and effective means to advocate for strengthening these measures so as to give voice to the humans and other beings most affected.

5) Knowledge about environmental ethical issues, the movement to create a global ethic (The Earth Charter), and the means to join this effort.

6) Awareness of Christian and denominational traditions that have contributed to earth's problems, what theological and ethical resources might help us, and how to think creatively about environmental situations.

7) How congregations can incorporate care for the earth into their identity and mission—worship, education, property, discipleship at home and work, and public ministry—and the organizing tools and leadership skills to bring about those changes.

8) How congregations can be places of moral deliberation for issues that face the larger community, assisting people to work together to address social conflicts over choices of justice and ecology—and modeling how this might be done.

9) What lifestyle changes are necessary to counter the consumer culture and to live simply—in ways that minimize our impact on the earth and serve to restore the creation.

10) How personally to work through fear, guilt, grief, anger, and despair so that we are fed by God's grace and love, which enables us to make environmental choices with joy and commitment.

11) How to get in touch with nature so that a foundational experience with the natural world leads us to love creation. We will not save what we do not love.

David Rhoads is editor of Earth & Words: Classic Sermons on Saving the Planet and director of, where a version of this list was originally published.

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