O for a World: Faith, Community, and Sustainability

Earl Lectures and Pastoral Conference, January 21–24, 2008
Sponsored by Pacific School of Religion
Held at First Congregational Church of Berkeley

A common belief is that Christians and environmentalists are opponents rather than colleagues. However true this may have been, it is less and less so. Increasingly, Christians are realizing that biblical faith provides the best foundation for caring for the creation. Christianity provides a spiritual foundation for environmentalism. As Genesis says, God put us in the garden to serve and preserve it; this means we are in a position of dependence on nature rather than dominion over it.

In the 21st century, we face not only the degradation of the environment, but also a growing disparity between those who have access to resources and those who are deprived. Now is the time for progressive people of faith to address not only the ecological but also the moral and social burdens weighing down the generations. What can we do to build just and sustainable communities? How can people of faith work for justice and help sustain lives savaged by hunger and fear?

With its focus on "Faith, Community, and Sustainability," the 2008 Earl Lectures and Pastoral Conference addressed these vital questions. Preachers, lecturers, and workshop leaders helped connect the liberal Protestant concern for social justice with the need for environmental justice.

2008 Earl Lecturers and Preachers

Karen Baker-Fletcher

Karen Baker-Fletcher (lecture Tuesday 2:30 pm) is associate professor of theology at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX. She joined their faculty in 2001. From 1993 to 2001 she was associate professor of theology and culture at Claremont School of Theology in California, and before that she was assistant professor of theology and culture at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. She earned a bachelor's degree from Wellesley College and two masters and a doctorate from Harvard University. Her books include Sisters of Dust, Sisters of Spirit: Womanist Wordings on God and Creation (1998), My Sister, My Brother: Womanist and Xodus God-Talk (2002), and Dancing with God: The Trinity from a Womanist Perspective (2007).

Daniel Buford

Daniel A. Buford (lecture Thursday 9 am) is a self-described "Harlem Renaissance Man": a sculptor, writer, community organizer, and associate minister of the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland. His art has been featured in Christianity Today and The 2000 International Review of African American Art Journal. He is a founding organizer and trainer of the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, based in New Orleans, and has conducted Undoing Racism workshops throughout the United States, South Africa, and Puerto Rico since 1980. He is vice president of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, a peace and justice think tank in Berkeley.

Clarence L. Johnson

Clarence L. Johnson (worship Thursday 1:45 pm) is a fourth-generation member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He earned his Masters of Divinity degree from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. From 1972-1977 he was the first director of black ministry for the Department of Ministry Division of Homeland Ministries of CC (DOC). After serving as pastor in Jackson, MS in 1982 he served Mills Grove Christian Church (DOC) in Oakland from 1982 until 1986. He returned there as transitional minister in February 2006 and on July 22, 2007 was named senior minister/pastor. His clergy memberships include: Pastors of Oakland, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, and African-American/Korean-American Fellowship of Churches.

Ken Medema

Ken Medema (leads worship each day) was born with sight limited to distinguishing between light and darkness and seeing fuzzy outlines of major objects, yet he helps his listeners see the world. Ken has been singing for more than three decades in every venue imaginable — for audiences of from 50 to 50,000 people, at churches, colleges, and corporations. Using his unique gifts, Ken hears with his heart stories from people or themes from events or speeches and then sings back these stories to audiences of all ages. In 1985 he founded Brier Patch Music, an independent recording, publishing, and performance-booking company that creates musical expressions celebrating all aspects of the human experience, with an emphasis on spirituality and such universal concerns as peace, justice, and the environment.

Chandra Muzaffar

Chandra Muzaffar (lectures Tuesday and Wednesday 9 am) is both a social activist and an academic. He is president of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), an international NGO based in Malaysia, which seeks to critique global injustice and to develop an alternative vision of a just and compassionate civilization guided by universal spiritual and moral values. Chandra is also the Noordin Sopiee Professor of Global Studies at the Science University of Malaysia (USM) in Penang. The author and editor of 20 books in English and Malay, he has published extensively on civilizational dialogue, international politics, religion, human rights, and Malaysian society. Among his major publications are Human Rights and the New World Order (1993) and Global Ethic or Global Hegemony? (2005). Chandra sits on the board of a number of international NGOs concerned with social justice and civilizational dialogue.

Mayra Rivera Rivera

Mayra Rivera Rivera (lecture Wednesday 1:45 pm) is assistant professor of theology at Pacific School of Religion. Her research in the field of constructive theology is influenced by feminist, liberation, and postcolonial thought. She is author of The Touch of Transcendence: A Postcolonial Theology of God (2007), which explores the relationship between ideas about God's otherness and models of inter-human difference. It engages the contrasting models of transcendence espoused by "radical orthodox" theologians and Latin American liberation theologians. She is also co-editor of Postcolonial Theologies: Divinity and Empire (2004).

Mary Westfall

Mary E. Westfall (worship Tuesday 7:30 pm) serves as senior minister of the Community Church (UCC) of Durham, NH. She graduated from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1988 and was ordained into the Presbyterian Church (USA) that same year. Since then she has served a diverse congregation in New York City, as a college chaplain at the University of New Hampshire, and is now pastor of a lively university parish. In 2000 she received her PhD after completing an inter-disciplinary program in the areas of ecology, philosophy, and education. She continues to work extensively with faith communities and educational settings interested in finding ways to connect authentic spirituality and sound environmental practice. Her publications include The Greening of Faith: God, the Environment, and the Good Life, co-edited with John Carroll and Paul Brockelman.