Earl Lectures to address religion, environment, and social justice

January 17, 2008

Despite the common perception that Christians and environmentalists are at loggerheads, more and more Christians are realizing that biblical faith provides the best foundation for caring for creation and that Christianity can help provide a spiritual foundation for environmentalism. Progressive people of faith will gather at First Congregational Church in Berkeley, January 22-24, 2008, for Pacific School of Religion’s 107th annual Earl Lectures and Pastoral Conference. Under the general title “O for a World: Faith, Community, and Sustainability,” lecturers, preachers, and workshop leaders will connect the liberal Protestant concern for social justice with the need for environmental justice.  


A multi-denominational Christian seminary in Berkeley, Pacific School of Religion (PSR) has been preparing leaders for historic and emerging faith communities since 1866. Since 1901, PSR’s Earl Lectures have brought eminent scholars to Berkeley to speak on themes important to Christian life and thought. 


Two Earl Lectures will be presented by Chandra Muzaffar, a social activist, academic, and president of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), an international NGO based in Malaysia. This organization seeks to critique global injustice and to develop an alternative vision of a just and compassionate civilization guided by universal spiritual and moral values. His lectures are titled “Global Hegemony and the Erosion of Universal Spiritual and Moral Values” and “Struggling for Global Justice: Is Religion an Obstacle?” 


Karen Baker-Fletcher, published womanist author and associate professor of theology at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas, will deliver an Earl Lecture titled “Breath of God, Winds of Nature.” Daniel A. Buford, a self-described “Harlem Renaissance Man” – a sculptor, writer, community organizer, and associate minister of the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland – will speak on “O for a Faith That Will Not Shrink: Sustaining the Movement for Social Change in the 21st Century.” And PSR assistant professor of theology Mayra Rivera Rivera titles her Earl Lecture, “Burning Bushes: Seeking Earthly Glimpses of Divine Glory.” Her research in the field of constructive theology is influenced by feminist, liberation, and postcolonial thought.


These lectures are free and open to the public, as are three worship services. Mary E. Westfall, senior minister of the Community Church (UCC) of Durham, New Hampshire, will lead the first worship service with a sermon titled “Cracked Cisterns and Living Water: Blessed Imperfections on the Journey Toward Wholeness.”  Clarence L. Johnson will preach “Give Me Jesus”; a fourth-generation member of the Disciples of Christ, he is senior pastor of Mills Grove Christian Church in Oakland. A special event this year will be a one-hour musical worship service featuring Ken Medema, founder of Brier Patch Music, titled “A Conversation Using Stories and Music.” Medema will also present special music at the other two worship services.


Also offered during the three-day event are 28 workshops which will, in various ways, grapple with how communities of faith can work for justice and help sustain lives savaged by hunger and fear. To register go to PSR’s website, www.psr.edu, or call (510) 847-8218 or (800) 999-0528, Ext. 1218. Registration for the Pastoral Conference workshops is $125.


First Congregational Church of Berkeley is located at 2345 Channing Way.