Tag Archives: environmental racism

Pastor Booker Vance

Pastor Vance (62) is the Policy Outreach Coordinator for Elevate Energy.  He is a native of Houston, TX. He attended Bethany Lutheran College in Lindsborg, KS where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Economics with a concentration in Mathematics in 1980. He continued his education as he graduated from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago (LSTC) in 1986 with a Master of Divinity degree. Immediately upon graduation from seminary, Rev. Vance served as the Pastor of St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Southside of Chicago in the Chatham Neighborhood for from 1986-2016.

Following his faithful and steadfast service at St. Stephen’s, Rev. Vance made his way to the Environmental Community as an Executive Policy Director for Faith in Place from 2016-2018. In this role, Rev. Vance was a prominent figure in proclaiming Environmental Justice and Ecological Transformation as a voice for the voiceless who continue crying out from the wilderness. He continues advocating for the economically disenfranchised and those who have been marginalized in the traditionally and overwhelmingly white environmental community.

After serving on the Illinois Climate Table and working with a diverse group of environmental leadership, Rev. Vance envisioned that the passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act provided great hope and promise. He likes to see Ecumenical Interfaith Environmental Justice Communities engage in productive collaborative work. He was a part of the Chicago Climate Table Working group who helped shape and pass the FEJA – The Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016. He considers his time at Faith in Place as pivotal in his growth as Environmental Justice Advocate and Ecumenical/Interfaith Leader. He sees that primarily focusing on Workforce Development and Job Creation (where real people are connected with real jobs) has been a daunting task. However, Rev. Vance strives to focus on the historical trauma that has plagued environmental equity efforts in Environmental Justice communities. He dreams of expanding the scope of Workforce Development to include Returning Citizens and Foster Care Alumni as a high hope in present day legislation. He firmly believes that the passage of FEJA and the proposing of CEJA present a challenging implementation to the traditionally White Environmental Community.

Rev. Vance stands before the Traditional Environmental Community to say that Environmental Justice is not a passing fad and that the RDEI (Diversity, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) are not experimental theories but must be the core and central values that drive our work together. He is a member of the African Descent Lutheran Association and Recent addition to the Lutheran Care for Creation Organization.

A recent addition to the Elevate Energy Team as a Policy Outreach Coordinator. Serving as Pastor of St. Stephens Evangelical Lutheran Church on the South Side of Chicago for over 25 years before engaging in the intersection of Community Organizing and the Environmental Justice Discipline. He lives on the South Side of Chicago. He is the Father of Two Sons, Booker Jr. and Erwin. Erwin is married to Krystal and they are the parents of 3 children. Therefore Pastor Vance as he is affectionately referred to is the Grandpa of 3, Aniyah, Isaiah and Nia.

 

Eco-Reformation & Environmental Justice: In Word & Deed

The Grace Gathering ran parallel to the 2016 Churchwide Voting Assembly in New Orleans. The goal in gathering was to inspire one another to look back at the 500 years since the Reformation and see how to move forward in faith and love for the next 500 years. On August 11th a small group was planning to go out and serve near the Make it Right community in the Lower Ninth Ward, still rising from the ashes of the devastation since the levees failed. While, it proved to rainy to get to the land that needed cultivating, our host, Constance Fowler was gracious enough to show off local urban gardens and the Living History Museum. This proved to be a truly transformational outing, even though many were disappointed to not “get their hands dirty”. The service of bearing witness as an act of solidarity with those still impacted by systematic injustices is immeasurable.

The concept of Eco-Reformation was well considered throughout the event as seen in the Reformation Sourcebook Sampler given to every participant which included a section written by LRC founder, Rev. David Rhoads. Two workshops were offered and very well attended: one regarding the WHAT is and WHY we need an Eco-Reformation, and the other focused on the HOW TO engage in the ongoing eco-reformation progress.
Professor Richard Perry, Rev. Nancy Wright, Louis Tillman, Ruth Ivory-Moore and Phoebe Morad shared specific information about the history of the Creation Care movement in the ELCA, including how environmental racism parallels to civil rights injustices.  To download, click: Professor Richard Perry’s pastoral response to environmental racism. If you believe a similar conversation would be appreciated in your community consider looking at our Speaker’s Bureau to see who is in your area.
  

What is Our Response?

As part of our Connections Calls, we get to hear feedback from representatives who work in various expressions of the ELCA.  During the January 2020 call, after a group devotional,  Katrina Martich shared what she took away from the 2019 Lutheran Disaster Response Convening.  Listen here to the whole call (she starts at 20:35).

“There are natural hazards, but no such thing as natural disasters, even though that is a term many of those in the public are familiar with. Disasters happen when hazards (for example natural hazards like hurricanes) impact people and the systems people have made – their culture, their society, their economy, their inequalities. And our response to that disaster can further shape the impact of the disaster on people.”
– Dr. Jennifer Trivedi,  Asst. Professor of Anthropology at Univ. of Delaware 

Resources in relation to the Call Topic:

Sunday July 17-23 in Year C (Saler)

Right Delight is the Basis of Right Action: Robert Saler reflects on Luke 10:38-42

Care for Creation Commentary on the Common Lectionary

Readings for July 17-23, Series C (2013, 2016, 2019, 2022)

Amos 8:1-12
Psalm 52
Colossians 1: 15-28
Luke 10:38-42

The story of Mary and Martha has, throughout history, served as a kind of paradigmatic biblical intervention into a philosophical conversation that predates the Gospels by centuries, but yet was very current in Jesus’ time: the relative merits of action vs. contemplation (praxis vs. theoria, in Aristotelian terms).

When we think of theory, we often have an attenuated sense of it as a kind of disembodied, less-than-practical intellectual activity; hence our tendency to ask, “It may work in theory, but will it work in practice?” However, in important strands of the Greek philosophical tradition, “theory” (and its Latin cognate of “contemplation”) had a much richer valence, one having to do with gazing in delight and unperturbed peace upon the true, the good, and the beautiful. To be engaged in theory is to be delighting in the good as such.

Unfortunately, while much Greek philosophy did make connections between theory and ethics, the class structures in place in most ancient societies led to fairly stark class-based divisions between those few elites with the leisure time to “theorize” and the majority whose labor (including slave labor) supported the social infrastructure. Aristotle, for instance, did not disguise his views that the life of philosophical contemplation was superior to a life of labor, and that true statements about beauty and the good could only come from the mouths of those with enough leisure, riches, and education to contemplate the good in unhurried fashion.

To the extent that the Christian tradition’s thinking has taken on such Greek philosophical assumptions, then Luke’s account of the Mary/Martha story has served to reinforce such a sense among Christians. Much exegetical tradition has emphasized that it is Mary, who sits in contemplation of “the good, the true, the beautiful” (that is, the person and teachings of Jesus) who is engaged in the properly “Christian” activity, while Martha, whose labor provides the space in which such contemplation can happen, is given short shrift. Sermons stemming from this tradition tend to unwittingly reinforce the divide between theory and action/ethics, with the latter losing out.

However, such a divide is disastrous for a Christian faith that takes creation care seriously. This is not so only because it is clear that a great deal of ethical action is necessary if the deleterious effects of environmental degradation are to be addressed (and further degradation halted). It is also because care for creation is clearly an area where action must stem from a more fundamental delight in what God’s hand has fashioned in our environment.

The Lutheran theologian Joseph Sittler saw this. In his celebrated sermon “The Care of the Earth,” Sittler points to the deep interconnection between fundamental “joy” in creation (joy which the Christian tradition from Augustine to Aquinas defined as “resting in something for its own sake”) and right care for—or “use of”—creation. In his sermon (available at www.josephsittler.org), he writes,

It is of the heart of sin that man uses what he ought to enjoy. It is also, says Thomas, of the heart of sin that man is content to enjoy what he ought to use. For instance. charity is the comprehensive term to designate how God regards man [sic]. That regard is to be used by man for man. That is why our Lord moves always in his speech from the source of joy, that man is loved by the holy, to the theater of joy, that man must serve the need of the neighbor. “Lord, where did we behold thee? I was in prison, hungry, cold, naked”-you enjoyed a charity that God gives for use.

If the creation, including our fellow creatures, is impiously used apart from a gracious primeval joy in it the very richness of the creation becomes a judgment. This has a cleansing and orderly meaning for everything in the world of nature, from the sewage we dump into our streams to the cosmic sewage we dump into the fallout.

Abuse is use without grace; it is always a failure in the counterpoint of use and enjoyment. When things are not used in ways determined by joy in the things themselves, this violated potentiality of joy (timid as all things holy, but relentless and blunt in its reprisals) withdraws and leaves us, not perhaps with immediate positive damnations but with something much worse—the wan, ghastly, negative damnations of use without joy, stuff without grace, a busy, fabricating world with the shine gone off, personal relations for the nature of which we have invented the eloquent term, contact, staring without beholding, even fornication without finding.

When “use” is informed by joy, use (action) itself becomes a kind of expression of that joy. Theoria and praxis merge.

When approached in this light, the story of Mary and Martha offers an intriguing opportunity for the preacher to meditate on how ethical action in the world stems from deep theoria, deep contemplative joy in gazing upon the beauty and goodness of creation. Those already involved in creation care know that acts of care for creation—and those who inhabit it, including humans—have a unifying tendency in that they unite joy and service in an embodied, concrete sense. It is to “take refuge in God,” as the psalm says, by letting delight for what God has made inform peaceful action on behalf of its health and flourishing.

One final note: stemming from the above discussion of the class-based distinctions that have historically facilitated separation between theory and practice, and elevation of the former over the latter, this week’s gospel might also be a time for churches to ruminate on those structures in our world that allow a certain small percentage of our populations to “enjoy” nature in leisurely fashion (e.g. a trip to the Grand Canyon) while others whose labor helps sustain our societies are cut off from such opportunities for unhurried enjoyment. Likewise, discussions of environmental racism might benefit from seeing them through this same lens (that is, what sort of communities are denied chances to enjoy the beauty of nature based on socioeconomic factors?).  Here too, discussion of the beautiful might energize practices of justice.

For additional care for creation reflections on the overall themes of the lectionary lessons for the month by Trisha K Tull, Professor Emerita of Old Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and columnist for The Working Preacher, visit: http://www.workingpreacher.org/columnist_home.aspx?author_id=288

Louis Tillman 

Louis Tillman recently finished a yearlong internship at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is expecting to earn his Master of Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago in May 2017. As part of the GreenFaith Emerging Leaders Multi-faith Climate Convergence in 2015 he went to Rome as one of 100 young leaders, ages 21-40, selected from around the world. He says, “I have had the honor of being in Rome among 100 amazing and incredible climate activists from every corner of the world. We all came from different faiths but we breathe the same air, we share the same trees and we live on the same earth…The multicultural and enriching discussions exploring the deeply connected faith teachings we all have showed me that our common cause of protecting our environment transcends borders, cultures, religions, race and background and means we are truly one family of God’s creation on earth appointed to protect all the things we love. Now let’s start changing the world, one person at a time,” Tillman says.