Southeastern takes step forward in environmental initiatives

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by Lauren Crane

WAKE FOREST, N.C. – With the help of a $126,500 grant from The Energy Foundation, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is making strides toward becoming better stewards of God’s creation.

The grant, which was awarded to the Southern Baptist institution in October, will enable Southeastern to institute a number of new programs and initiatives aimed at promoting better care of God’s creation through increased awareness and increased opportunities to get involved.

The money provided by The Energy Foundation will be used for a recycling program at Southeastern; a conference on creation care; funding for a consultant for Southeastern’s L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture; and a book endowment for useful new materials.

The majority of the new efforts will be done in conjunction with the Center for Faith and Culture, which seeks to engage culture as salt and light, presenting and defending the Christian faith and demonstrating its implications for all areas of human existence. As a consultant for the CFC, Jonathan Merritt, a recent graduate of Southeastern and proponent of creation care initiatives, will be enabled to travel, speak about Southeastern, make recommendations on various projects and materials to purchase and help arrange speakers and details

Merritt, who has recently become known as an advocate for Christians to become more involved in caring for the Earth, will also be able to travel extensively and speak about Christian stewardship of the environment.

“I sincerely hope that the center will make use of me often and in ways they find to be helpful,” Merritt said. “This grant is another testament to the great job that Dr. Akin and our fine faculty are doing here. If it were not for the Bible-based, intellectual freedom that Southeastern provides, I would never have been able to attempt something this big.”

In addition to funding Merritt as a consultant, the grant will also enable Southeastern to host a conference in November 2009 on good stewardship of the Earth, as well as a lecture series on environmental stewardship practices.

“We are grateful to the Energy Foundation for the grant to develop a conference on creation care,” said Bruce Little, director of the Center for Faith and Culture. “The conference gives us a platform from which to address a very important topic in our culture, a topic Christians have a stake in – not because there might be a crisis, but because our Christian worldview requires us to be concerned.”

“We hope to be able to put the discussion in a proper theological context, showing that Christians should first be concerned about the environment for theological reasons, and then see how that commitment informs us on the issue before us.”

In addition to discovering how Christians can better take care God’s creation, Little said the conference will provide a venue for demonstrating the Christian mind and spirit in the creation care conversation.

“This conference will exhibit a workable paradigm for engaging other cultural issues,” Little said. “We desire to be responsible citizens while being faithful Christians in all matters of the human experience.”

In addition to hosting the conference on Southeastern’s campus, the impact of The Energy Foundation’s grant on daily life at Southeastern will be seen in the new recycling efforts that should be implemented by the end of the spring 2009 semester.

“The new program will help us by being wiser with resources that can be reused,” said Ryan Hutchinson, Senior Vice President for Business Administration. “This will cut down on the need to use natural resources needlessly, and it will help to avoid the impact of cluttering landfills with unnecessary refuse.”

Merritt first became involved with efforts for good environmental stewardship during a Southeastern theology class, an experience that “lit a fire for creation care” in his heart. He said he is excited about the opportunities the grant presents to Southeastern and Southern Baptists.

“This grant enables us to leap to the front lines and speak with a voice that is rooted in God’s word and adequate to the tasks at hand,” he said.

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