As the only Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seminary on the Pacific Rim, San Francisco Theological Seminary has emerged as a spiritual and theological oasis, where students, faculty, staff, and even our neighbors, respect creation and honor God's handiwork with loving care.
"We have the heritage of having our seminary in this beautiful natural environment on the West Coast in biking and walking distance to Mount Tamalpais," says Dr. Carol Robb, Margaret Dollar Professor of Christian Social Ethics. "For seminary students who are concerned about the environment, SFTS is ideal."
SFTS is currently engaged in making important decisions to renovate or build faculty homes and students' residences that are energy efficient to lower impact on the natural environment. This movement has been propelled by the Seminary's recent Carbon Footprint Report that documents current levels of carbon emissions in order to establish a baseline against which to make improvements.
For students who have yet to develop a commitment to the environment, they have the chance to learn about it in the classroom. Environmental Ethics is taught every year, using a theory-practice model of education. Each class chooses its own project to teach itself something new about how to live more lightly on the earth.
"The projects help everyone learn a new competency, something positive to heal the fragile ecology," Robb explains. "By learning how to do something positive, we find a path beyond an otherwise overwhelming sense that humankind is destroying the web of life. I've heard students say, from time to time, that when we in a class work on a project together, it seems the earth is also healing us."
The Seminary's Program in Christian Spirituality also incorporates respect for nature into its curriculum. Nature is viewed as one way through which to know God.
SFTS is very fortunate to have faculty members who are passionate about environmental impact. Robb is the author of the new book Wind, Sun, Soil, Spirit: Biblical Ethics and Climate Change (Fortress, 2010). Rev. Dr. Sam Hamilton-Poore, director of the Program in Christian Spirituality and assistant professor of Christian Spirituality, is the author of Earth Gospel: A Guide to Prayer for God's Creation (Upper Room Books, 2008).
"It is ecclesiastical suicide to send students into the world without understanding the world we live in, and climate change is so significant a factor in today's world," said Rev. Charles Marks, SFTS chaplain. "Respect for creation should be embedded in all our preparation for ministry, no matter what kind of ministry, and we needed to think about how the Seminary can take that responsibility."