November 2, 2009
Ecologies of Grace is the title of a book by Willis Jenkins, (Oxford, 2008), an Episcopalian and the Margaret Farley Assistant Professor of Social Ethics at Yale Divinity School. He teaches environmental theology and ethics. I have been reading and thinking about environmental matters since St. Paul’s, Alexandria, provided significant leadership for the Diocese of Virginia and beyond under the leadership of the late Charles Allen Jr. I know that concern for the environment is important as a matter of stewardship. I have read many works extolling that point of view and many others taking the path that is known as ‘eco-justice’. I am sold as a matter of ethics, oughts and shoulds. I happily and enthusiastically recycle anything that can be recycled, usually remember to turn the tap off while I am brushing my teeth or shaving and make sure that places I work are not using large amounts of Styrofoam. But I have yet to succeed in connecting environmental concern with immediate existential concern. I hope the Kyoto Accord combat global warming (which I believe to be a real issue) and look forward to the day when we can develop the All Saints’ campus in an exemplary way that takes LEED standards as a minimum.
I’m reminded of so much of the work around issues of sexuality which seemed to be using scripture or tradition to make ethical arguments or calls to work of justice and so on. It was not until I read James Alison (our Holy Week preacher of a few years ago) that I read someone who incorporated his discussion of sexuality and reflection on his won experience into fundamental soteriology and so grew to connect ‘the issue’ with everything that really matters to all of us for life. The introductory chapter to Willis Jenkins’ book suggests that he might be able to accomplish something similar. He promises to look a three broad strategies within Christina environmental ethics in addition to some secular approaches. The Christian ones are “ecojustice theologies’, ‘stewardship theologies’ and ‘ecological spiritualities’. This last one, he says, “appropriate(s) themes of deification, by which personal creativity brings all creation into the gift of union with God.” (p. 19) I’m looking forward to finding out what that means and have some hope that this book might be ‘different’.
I plan to comment here as I go in the hopes that some of you might like to read along with me engaging some conversation through the comment section. You can order the book here if you are interested.