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Faculty Profiles 2011

Editor's Note: We contacted over a dozen ELCA faculty who had courses related to ecology listed in their seminary's catalog. We asked about the environments they come from, how ecology or ecological theology influences their work, and any courses or publications they'd like to pass along. Those who kindly responded are below:

Dr. Benjamin M. Stewart

Gordon A. Braatz Assistant Professor of Worship

Dean of Augustana Chapel

Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago


How has your faith been shaped by place, location, landscape or environment?

I grew up with frequent family car-camping, hiking, and backpacking trips mostly in the lush forests of Ohio and the Appalachians. There was nothing really out-of-the-ordinary about the trips, but as I look back I can see that my parents were steadily teaching me attentiveness to the large and small wonders of the creation--and a sense of awe before it all. Serving as pastor to Holden Village in the Glacier Peak Wilderness of Washington where we marked the liturgical year in a stunning wilderness valley was an epiphany: the light and darkness images of the Christmas cycle sang harmony with the deep darkness and returning light of winter solstice. The spring melt and rain flowed like a river through Lent toward Easter.



What difference does ecology/environment make in your teaching?

Besides the modules and courses specifically addressing ecological themes, I highlight the physical, embodied dimensions of faith practices and scriptural images: sharing food with the hungry, laying on of hands and prayer, real bread and a shared cup of wine, baptismal pools and rivers and seas, burial in the earth, the ancient open-to-the-world gesture for prayer of the orans posture. I try to show how salvation in Christ is about healing--and about healing of bodies, spirits, and the creation.



Please list any of your courses, publications or presentations that address environment:

             editor, Liturgy and Ecology (special edition of the journal Liturgy, February 2012)

             "Committed to the Earth: Ecotheological Dimensions of Christian Burial Practices," Liturgy 27.2, February 2012

             A Watered Garden: Christian Worship and Earth's Ecology (Augsburg Fortress, 2011)

             “‘I Too Must Sing When All Things Sing:’ Paul Gerhardt’s Nature Hymns.” CrossAccent: Journal of the      Association of American Lutheran Church Musicians 15:1 (2007): 40-44.

             “O Blessed Spring: Paschal Initiation in an Age of Ecological Disintegration.”  Seattle University Theology Review 6 (2006): 76-88.

             “Flooding the Landscape: Luther's Flood Prayer and Baptismal Theology.” CrossAccent: Journal of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians 13: 1 (2005): 4-14.

             The Role of Baptismal Water at the Vigil of Easter in the Liturgical Generation of Eco-Theology. PhD dissertation, Emory University, 2010. http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/7mckz

             “Shifting the University: Faculty Engagement and Curriculum Change.” in Anthropology and Global Climate Change: Witnessing, Communicating, Acting. Susan A. Crate and Robert K. Hitchcock, editors. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2008. With Peggy F. Barlett.

             Liturgy, Body, Ecology: Senior Interdisciplinary Seminar

             Wilderness Travel Seminar: Liturgy and the Cycles of Creation

             frequent academic and ecclesial presentations on liturgy and ecology

Dr. Mary Hess

Associate Professor of Educational Leadership

Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, MN


How has your faith been shaped by place, location, landscape or environment?

I grew up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, a small town on a lake. Throughout my childhood Lake Winnebago was a constant presence – in the lakeflies that flooded our neighborhood in the late spring, in the cracking of the ice as it boomed during the winter, in the open horizon beyond which was only sky.

Even in the midst of the most painful struggles of my childhood, that lake was a clear reminder that there was something bigger than me, that God had created beauty and terror (because lakes can also be sources of terror) beyond my knowing. As I grew older I also came to know something of the complex ecologies of a lake and its borders with the land, and that learning deepened my reverence for the awesome power that had created such an intricate set of relationships.

Ever since then I have focused my work on walking alongside of people in the daily-ness of their faith journeys. The work of environmental educators – who attend very carefully to place – has been a crucial element of my approach to religious education.


What difference does ecology/environment make in your teaching?

Ecological awareness fundamentally shapes my epistemological assumptions. I admire the work of David Orr, and believe that his framework is deeply congruent with spiritual formation and religious identity. I have worked hard to bring the insights of environmental pedagogies to my teaching in religious education. Concrete impacts of that commitment include holding my classes in a variety of contexts, and requiring my students to draw on and from the places they find themselves within as a crucial element of their learning.


Please list any of your courses, publications or presentations that address environment:

“EL3530: Christian education in relation to creation” is the primary course I teach that engages these issues.


Dr. Klaus-Peter Adam

Associate Professor of Old Testament

Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

How has your faith been shaped by place, location, landscape or environment?

Thirty five years ago, when the needle trees of Germany's Black Forest began to die from acidic rain, I drastically experienced the fragility of God's creation. Since then the care for the earth became an integral part of my Lutheran faith. 

What difference does ecology/environment make in your teaching?

When I teach students about the beauty of Israel's land in biblical times, I explain to them the climatic factors of Palestinian/Israelite culture. I use the example of water to demonstrate how humankind in the last decades has severely over exploited their resources.


Please list any of your courses, publications or presentations that address environment:

Intensive Biblical archaeology and on the land of Israel (last taught in Jan 2010).

Dr. Alan Padgett

Professor of Systematic Theology at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN

Ordained Minister of the United Methodist Church


Whenever I teach the doctrine of Creation (ST1415 ST1: Creation and the Triune God) concern for the environment and ecology enters into the conversation, both in the doctrine of creation per se and also in the notion of "dominion" or stewardship of life.  In that same class, we discuss theological anthropology, and I normally talk about primate culture in comparing and contrasting humans to other primates (regarding especially the doctrine of Imago Dei.).  And of course such issues enter into ST3430 Ethics 2: Theology and the Environment.




Dr. Gilson Waldkoenig

Professor of Church in Society

Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg


How has your faith been shaped by place, location and/or landscape?

The Appalachian Mountains towered around the landscape of my childhood.  Those mountains collected and shed the waters of my baptism, which soaked me in the promising word of Christ’s unflinching love.  A mountain stream can preach a sermon to me, evoking a sharp distinction between the God-praising voices of earth and the noise of human beings.  I’ve heard the holy quietness that returns to scarred landscapes after strip mines, clear cuts and industries run their course. God does not abandon the earth even if people misuse it; the cross vividly affirms that. Today I live on the eastern doorstep of the Appalachians, listening, remembering and learning.


What difference does ecology/environment make in your teaching?

My theology starts with Jesus Christ, who is God-with-us (Matthew 1:23).  Christ, crucified and resurrected, is now alive in creation and comes to us through means of grace. Those means create scenes of grace, and there are complementary scenes of grace all around us.  Therefore, environment, nature and especially wilderness are vitally important.

I was called to Gettysburg Seminary in 1995 to teach in its long tradition of rural ministry studies. Environmental history, land and wilderness were part of my earlier studies about the church and rural places, and continue to be vibrant interests. In 1995, I began teaching Ecology and Stewardship which colleagues pioneered in 1994. In 2010 I added a course that examines the wider interfaith contribution to environmental healing.  I am a GreenFaith Fellow in the class of 2011. For me, environment keeps theology rooted in the incarnation of Christ, and the present-tense justice of God.

Relevant Courses & Publications:

Ecology and Religion in Global and Interfaith Perspective

Ecology and Stewardship

Environmental History of Christianity/Ecotheology in Christian History

Ecotheology in Northern Appalachia

 “Scenes and Means of Grace” forthcoming in Dialog: A Journal of Theology, Winter 2012

“E.W. Mueller on the Christian Life” in Journal of Lutheran Ethics July 2011 http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Journal-of-Lutheran-Ethics/Issues/July-2011/E-W-Mueller-on-the-Christian-Life.aspx

“Sermon for Epiphany 7: With a Toothbrush in Your Pocket” in Seminary Ridge Review, Spr. 2011, 67-70. http://www.ltsg.edu/SRP/Seminary-Ridge-Review

Symbiotic Community (1999) and The Lost Land (editor, 1998)

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