Conference on land and faith extends call for papers

Published: February 6, 2014

Mary E. Klassen

Conversations about care for creation—from biblical imperatives to beekeeping—will fill a conference on land and faith at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, September 18–20.

Rooted and Grounded: A Conference on Land and Christian Discipleship will bring together scholars, students and teachers along with people engaged with the land, such as farmers, naturalists and restorers. The goal is to provide opportunities for Christians who are interested in what is happening to the environment to share perspectives and ideas, Janeen Bertsche Johnson, co-chair of the planning committee, said.

Three keynote speakers will explore different perspectives on the biblical and theological place of land in Christian life and belief:

Roy S. Kaufman, Mennonite pastor and author of Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization (Wipf and Stock, 2013);

Ellen Davis, professor of Bible and practical theology at Duke Divinity School, Durham, N.C., and author of Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible (Cambridge University Press, 2008); and

Barbara Rossing, professor of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and author of The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation (Basic Books, 2004).

These speakers will explore how the biblical narrative shows the importance of a healthy relationship with the land, Ryan Harker, AMBS student and the other planning co-chair said. “We are made for community and being close to the land,” he explained, “and the biblical narrative can help us keep this in focus even when we are pulled toward more urban living.”

The planning committee has extended a call for papers, from which workshop sessions will be selected. Suggested themes are watershed discipleship, land and place, eschatology and care for the land, place and contemporary life, and race and land or place. Johnson said she hopes some proposals will bring together a scholar and a practitioner to explore their different perspectives on issues of creation care. Submissions, due June 1, may be sent to the planning committee at [email protected] The Institute of Mennonite Studies will select several papers for publication following the conference.

In addition to the focus on papers, the committee will consider proposals with a more practical approach, such as sharing information on composting, restoring prairies, gardening or beekeeping. An afternoon of immersion experiences will allow participants to visit one of several nearby locations where relationship to the land can be further explored. Some time also will be available for participants to work on an enhanced nature trail on the AMBS campus or in the campus garden that contributes to the Seed to Feed program of Church Community Services.

Registration for the conference will begin April 1. Information will be posted on the conference web page: The call for papers is available there with details about what the planning committee is seeking.

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