[The General Theological Seminary] The General Theological Seminary (GTS) is partnering with GreenFaith, a leading interfaith environmental coalition and the Green Seminary Initiative (GSI) to create a new environmental certification program specifically designed for seminaries and theological schools.
GTS is a charter member among a small, select group of pilot seminaries and theological schools that will help GreenFaith and GSI define the new certification program’s standards and procedures during 2012.
“General’s partnership with GreenFaith is a further step in our commitment not only to teaching environmental theology and stewardship, but also to being increasingly green ourselves,” said GTS President Lang Lowrey. “We aim to be a leader among seminaries in caring for God’s creation.”
Building on Past GTS ‘Green’ Efforts
This commitment builds on a number of past GTS environmental initiatives. Foremost among these is the conversion of a fossil-fuel based heating-cooling system to an energy-efficient geothermal system for buildings in the seminary’s west quadrant, which has reduced the seminary’s carbon footprint by over 1,400 tons of CO2 emissions annually. The system makes use of the constant temperature of the earth below the surface. During winter months, when the subsurface is warmer than the air above ground, the system transfers heat upward. During summer months, heat is transferred downward.
Additionally, the GTS facilities team is moving towards using “blue” cleaning products which replace toxic chemicals with electrically activated water to clean floors, carpets and hard surfaces. GTS is also implementing a new recycling program and installing recycling bins throughout the seminary’s buildings and grounds.
Environmental Leadership Program for Seminaries Nationwide
The new certification program will provide guidance, mentoring, and resources to help seminaries and theological schools prepare their students to lead their congregations in meeting today’s ecological challenges. Program elements include greening of buildings and grounds and integrating ecological themes into academics, worship, community life and public ministry.
The certification program will be modeled after GreenFaith’s existing Certification Program for houses of worship.
This program requires participating houses of worship to integrate creation care into their education programs and worship, “green” their buildings and grounds, encourage their members to adopt sustainable consumption habits, develop relationships with environmental justice advocacy organizations and interfaith partners, and implement a holistic communications program.
“The Certification Program has proven highly successful at houses of worship with from 50 to 5,000 members in twelve states,” said the Rev. Fletcher Harper, an Episcopal priest and GreenFaith’s executive director. “We admire GTS’ leadership in making a major commitment to this vital issue.”
Program Designed Specifically for Seminaries
The new ‘green’ seminary certification program will have standards and resources specifically designed for institutions of theological education. Participating institutions will not only adopt a range of sustainable consumption habits on their own campuses, but also will equip religious leaders, both lay and ordained, to foster environmental stewardship in the communities where they minister.
“The seminary green certification program will equip participants to train a new generation of religious environmental leaders,” said Stacey Kennealy, who directs GreenFaith’s current Certification Program for houses of worship. “Participating seminaries will integrate environmental care into their core identity, preparing seminarians to offer pastoral, prophetic and practical leadership on a range of environmental concerns.”
The Green Seminary Initiative, which represents a diverse spectrum of seminaries across the country, will share its experience and engagement with well over 50 theological schools. “More and more, seminaries are realizing the importance of ecological issues to the foundations of our faith,” said Dr. Laurel Kearns, GSI’s co-founder and Associate Professor of Sociology and Religion and Environmental Studies at Drew Theological School and the Graduate Division of Religion of Drew University. “The certification process offers a well-organized, effective process to integrate the Earth into theological education in a holistic manner.”
GTS Student Leadership Vital to Partnership’s Growth
One exciting aspect of GTS’ partnership with GreenFaith is the involvement of student leaders. The idea for the partnership originally arose when two M.Div. seniors, Jadon Hartsuff and Keith Voets, took a course taught by Fr. Harper on Earth Spirituality, Stewardship and Justice through the seminary’s Center for Christian Spirituality. As part of their final project for the course, the two students met with President Lowrey and Fr. Harper to propose GTS’ leadership in the new certification program.
“We sat down at the table thinking that this was going to be a very tough sell given everything that’s on GTS’ agenda right now,” said Hartsuff. “But President Lowrey responded with such enthusiasm and swift action, as if he had been hoping some daring students would make this challenge. Seeing the GreenFaith initiative “green”-lighted with such nimble, strategic leadership has given me a glimpse of all that General really can soon come to be as it rebuilds and envisions its future.”