Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, located on Northwestern’s campus, is celebrating this year’s Earth Day in eco-style.
The school recently established the Center of Ecological Regeneration to help spread “eco-theological understandings, earth-based religious practices, and cooperative solidarities,” according to its website.
Longtime Professor Timothy Eberhart, who has taught ecology and theology for roughly the past 10 years, has been named inaugural Chair of the L. Robert and Marilyn McClean Endowed Chair in Ecological Theology and Practice.
On April 22 and 23, Garrett Seminary will hold a formal celebration of the new center, open to the public.
Culmination of years of work
Eberhart explained to the RoundTable that the center is not Garrett’s initial foray into the environmental sphere but instead represents a culmination of initiatives by the school in that arena for the past decade.
According to Eberhart, those activities have included student groups, lectures and workshops as well as trips to Standing Rock and Chiapas, Mexico, to engage and learn about different movements for environmental justice.
In 2018, the school began its concentration in ecological generation for master’s degree students.
Eberhart also directs the Master of Arts in Public Ministry degree, which he says is to prepare religious leaders who feel a call to non-traditional forms of ministry such as advocacy, organizing and public engagement.
He says that many students who come to study ecological theology and regenerative practice come through that degree.
“We’ve got graduates who have started up new nonprofits focused on environmental ministry, students who have started up their own businesses, one around sustainably sourced clothing [among] other exciting work … our graduates have been doing,” Eberhart said.
The center’s purpose
Why launch a center when you already provide a concentration in the topic?
Eberhart said the Center of Ecological Regeneration will give the program additional resources – financial and otherwise – to better support students who attend Garrett from around the world to study at the intersections of theology, ethics, ministry, social justice and ecological concern.
On the community front, Garrett has been engaged actively with the Evanston community over the past decade.
Eberhart, a resident of Evanston since 2010, has served on Citizens’ Greener Evanston and helped efforts to pass the 2020 environmental justice resolution at the City Council level.
According to the City of Evanston website, the resolution acknowledges “the harm that communities of color have experienced due to environmental injustices and outlining specific, corrective actions the City will take to support and protect the health and well-being of all residents.”
Eberhart has also served on the Equity and Empowerment Commission, which is dedicated to identifying and getting rid of inequalities in city practices.
“And so we know there are many places in Evanston where you find environmental degradation,” Eberhart said. “And as is true in national and global levels, where you find environmental degradation is often where there are histories and ongoing realities of racism and economic inequality. So, race, class, environmental harm all intersect. And that’s certainly been true here in Evanston in our history.”
Role of the chair
The position of Endowed Chair in Ecological Theology and Practice allows the school to have someone indefinitely teaching at the intersections of theology, philosophy, and environment and social justice, which Eberhart describes as “terribly exciting.”
Overall, he said, he’s eager for the center, which he believes is poised to continue to be a hub for local and regional faith-based organizing around addressing issues of climate change, environmental injustice, and environmental sustainability and wellbeing.
Those interested in attending the April 22 and 23 celebration of the center can register at this link.