Theologian for Earth Stewardship Appointed at Montreat Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)Local Initiative May Serve as National Model
Establishment of an “Earth Stewardship Theologian” position at Montreat Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in Montreat, North Carolina, marks a new milestone in the congregation’s growing Earth Ministry program. In announcing this step, the church’s pastor, Rev. Maggie Lauterer, expressed her belief that the effort “is part of reclaiming who we are as servants of the Creator. Our mission is to care for God’s people and God’s creation. We are very fortunate that Rev. Dr. Cam Murchison will help us initiate this effort, as he brings a wealth of knowledge, a distinguished background and great energy to our work concerning the environment.”
The Earth Stewardship Theologian is expected to help nurture a Biblically sound basis for all of the congregation’s efforts dealing with environmental subjects, so that the glory of God is always a focus. In this capacity, Murchison will augment the effort of the lay members of the Earth Ministry Team. In its first year, and as a pilot project, the work will develop a long-range framework for activities that may include preaching sermons, leading Bible studies and organizing mission trips concerned with Christian stewardship of Earth and its resources.
“What really excites me about this project is the specific work of particular congregations as they shape concrete responses to the urgent need for caring for God’s creation,” said Murchison. “The reason that I want to be a part of the effort is to participate in the translation of biblical, theological convictions regarding care for creation into the routine realities of everyday: our food, our transportation, our housing, our communication, our investing, and our consuming. The challenge is for us to devise faithful and resilient ways of living that respect the integrity and the limits of the home we have been given—the earth itself.”
Members of the congregation have a strong dedication to the quality and sustainability of the environment, but sometimes we are unsure of how to translate that awareness into meaningful actions that reflect our Christian faith.
Although the Earth theologian is beginning as an unpaid volunteer who will be part-time, according to William Seaman, who leads the church’s Earth Ministry Team, the congregation recognizes the value of having someone with Murchison’s background to help develop their “environmental literacy.” “Members of the congregation have a strong dedication to the quality and sustainability of the environment,” Seaman noted, “but sometimes we are unsure of how to translate that awareness into meaningful actions that reflect our Christian faith. Cam Murchison is just the person who can bring us from the Book of Genesis, to the theology of John Calvin, and into modern topics as diverse as ecological justice, fair trade, globalization and the gospel of Jesus. To our knowledge, no such similar position exists in the Presbyterian Church, and our intent would be to carefully explore its usefulness to both our congregation and also the greater church community and society as a whole.”
To launch the Earth theologian initiative, Montreat Presbyterian Church offered to the Swannanoa Valley community a program called “Clues for a World on the Edge.” The three-week study took “Creation as the Theater of God’s Glory” as its theme. Cam Murchison began the study in January and concluded in February. The classes examined selected Old and New Testament texts and theological perspectives dealing with God’s relationship to the whole creation. The study explored implications for Earth care. The program was free and open to the public. All were welcome.
Perhaps, this local initiative could be a model for churches all across the country.
Montreat Presbyterian Church (USA)
Box 577, Montreat, North Carolina 28757
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_________________________________________Duncan Cameron “Cam” Murchison Jr. is Professor Emeritus of Ministry at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, where he began service on the faculty in 1996 and also was Dean of Faculty and Executive Vice President, 2001–2010. He was on the faculty at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia from 1977–1987. He earned his Ph.D. at Yale University and holds bachelor’s degrees from Rhodes College and Union Theological Seminary. His scholarly efforts are complemented by service as pastor at Presbyterian churches in Blacksburg, Virginia, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Richmond. He has authored numerous journal articles and has served as editor of the Journal for Preachers. He has served the national Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) through service on numerous committees. In summer 2011 he was Theologian-in Residence at the Montreat Conference Center, and since moving to Black Mountain with his wife, Joan, he has served as a member of the Presbytery of Western North Carolina. Banner photo by Sanja Gjenero.