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ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — A third Rooted and Grounded Conference on Land and Christian Discipleship will offer participants from across North America opportunities to imagine and embody alternative ways of relating to the land that cultivate shalom between human beings, the rest of creation and God.
Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), Elkhart, Indiana, will host the conference April 20–22 (noon to noon), weaving together worship, theology, biblical study and praxis. Planners see the event as building on conversations held during the prior two Rooted and Grounded conferences held in September 2014 and October 2015, also at AMBS.
“Our hope is that the conference will connect people from a wide variety of places and roles to deepen their awareness of creation care theology and practice — and strengthen their commitment to working for the restoration of God’s creation,” said Janeen Bertsche Johnson, AMBS campus pastor and admissions counselor and a planner of the event.
- Thursday evening, April 20: Dr. Stanley Saunders will speak on “A Dwelling Place for God: Earth, Ecology and Eschatology in the Sermon on the Mount.” He is associate professor of New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, with research interests in early Christian understandings of “the last days,” the nature of the Church, spirituality, and how Scripture engages current issues such as creation care and the criminal justice system. An ordained member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Saunders wrote Preaching Matthew: Proclaiming God’s Presence (Westminster John Knox, 2010) and is working on a book about creation, eschatology and ecology.
- Friday evening, April 21: Sarah Augustine will speak on “Peoples of the Land Rise Up: The Struggle for the Land is the Struggle for Life,” exploring the struggles of Indigenous peoples in relation to texts from Amos, Isaiah, Hosea and Matthew. A member of Seattle Mennonite Church, Augustine is the executive director of the Dispute Resolution Center of Yakima and co-director of the Suriname Indigenous Health Fund. She led the team that wrote the World Council of Churches Statement on the Doctrine of Discovery (adopted in 2012) and has advocated for the rights of Indigenous peoples around the globe to the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.
- Saturday morning, April 22: Todd Wynward will speak on “Come to the Waters: What Settlers Like Me Learn from Standing Rock.” He will dig into biblical examples of transformation in undomesticated space at the water’s edge, and how the rootedness demonstrated at Standing Rock can ground all people — settlers and Indigenous alike — in their own home places in interfaith watershed protector alliances today. Wynward is the co-creator of a wilderness-based public charter school and founder of the Taos Initiative for Life Together [TiLT] in New Mexico. Licensed as a minister for watershed discipleship ministry in Mountain States Mennonite Conference, Wynward is author of Rewilding the Way: Break Free to Follow an Untamed God (Herald Press, 2015).
Thirty-two workshops and paper presentations by scholars and practitioners from across North America will explore themes such as:
- climate change
- biblical, theological and ethical understandings of creation care
- ways congregations and organizations are responding to ecological issues
- agriculture, food and health issues
- the Doctrine of Discovery
- Potawatomi culture
Friday afternoon immersion experiences will give participants opportunities to explore conservation and restoration efforts in the region, featuring visits to:
- Goshen (Indiana) College's Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center, Wolf Lake, Indiana
- Camp Friedenswald, Cassopolis, Michigan
- Potawatomi sites near Rochester and Benton, Indiana
- Goshen’s wastewater treatment plant
- local farms
- AMBS’s new solar panels
Also included in the conference are worship services, an exhibition of Potawatomi portraits by photographer Sharon Hoogstraten (Citizen Potawatomi Nation), an open mic session (poetry, music, etc. are welcome) and the dedication of AMBS’s new solar array. The AMBS campus, with areas of native grass and wildflowers, rain gardens, a prayer labyrinth and a walking path, will provide opportunities for learning, recreation and meditation.
Registration costs are $100/regular, $35/day and $25/student. If three or more undergraduate students register from the same college or university, their registration is free. Also, undergraduates receive free housing and transportation from Merry Lea Environmental Center.
AMBS demonstrates its commitment to environmental stewardship in various ways. The seminary is a member of the Seminary Stewardship Alliance, a consortium of seminaries committed to creation care initiatives. In September 2015, AMBS was recognized as 12th of more than 230 seminaries in North America for course offerings in creation care, by the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development. AMBS offers an Environmental Sustainability Concentration in its Master of Arts: Peace Studies program and its Master of Divinity Peace Studies Concentration. The seminary’s library, built in 2007, received the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Standard.