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Plenary at Mid-Winter Convocation

Mid-Winter Convocation


Melanie HarrisMelanie Harris

Founder and Director, African American and Africana Studies and Professor of Religion and Ethics at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas

Ecowomanism: Earth Justice in Our Time

The lecture features eco-wisdom flowing from the earth, honoring faith traditions of African-American women, and celebrating their contributions to the environmental justice movement. Harris will introduce the ecowomanist method and discuss the importance of engaging race-class-gender analysis when confronting climate injustice. The lecture will engage theory and practice as Harris discusses the environmental justice paradigm, eco-memory, and counter-memory. Participants will be invited to share their own eco-stories and together reenergize their faith and commitment to earth justice.

Melanie Harris is founding director of African American and Africana Studies and professor of religion and ethics at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. She also serves as visiting professor of ethical leadership and global environmental studies at the University of Denver. Harris earned a Doctor of Philosophy and a Master of Arts from Union Theological Seminary in The City of New York, a Master of Divinity from Iliff School of Theology in Denver, and a Bachelor of Arts from Spelman College in Atlanta.

Harris is a former broadcast journalist who worked as a news producer for ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliates. A community leader whose passion for education is linked to a commitment to social justice, she has also served as an educational consultant with the Ford Foundation, the Forum for Theological Exploration, and the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, Lilly Endowment Inc. She is on the executive board of the Society for the Study of Black Religion and has served on the Board of Directors of KERA-TV/Radio, the American Academy of Religion, and the Society of Christian Ethics. Harris has been awarded several prestigious awards and academic fellowships including the AddRan College of Liberal Arts Administration Fellowship and GreenFaith Fellowship.

Harris is author of the book “Gifts of Virtue, Alice Walker, and Womanist Ethics” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), coeditor of the volume “Faith, Feminism, and Scholarship: The Next Generation” (Palgrave, 2011), and editor of “Ecowomanism: African American Women and Earth-Honoring Faiths” (Orbis Books, 2017). A graduate of the Harvard Leadership Program, and a former American Council of Education Fellow, her research focuses on finance and budgeting in higher education, access, equity, and ethical leadership. Her scholarship critically examines intersections between race, religion, gender, interfaith dialogue, and environmental ethics.

Barbara RossingBarbara Rossing

Professor of New Testament at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

Feasting in Paradise: Early Christian Meals, Our World’s Hunger, and the Tree of Life

The tables of thanksgiving in the New Testament overturn the tables of Herod and the imperial system. How do we live the vision of the overflowing "abundances" of bread (John 6:13) in order to galvanize scriptural imagination for food justice today? How does preaching about meals transform our practices of growing food, caring for the soil, and eating together in community? Drawing on early Christian paradise traditions, ecology, and the Lord’s Prayer, we will consider how the Tree of Life, apocalyptic texts, and biblical meal stories can form visionary preaching, for food justice, sustainability, and Eucharistic living today.

Barbara Rossing is professor of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, where she has taught since 1994. She loves to teach and preach about the Bible, including the Bible’s role in public life. An avid environmentalist, Rossing is involved with environmental initiatives at the seminary. Rossing earned a Bachelor of Arts from Carleton College, a Master of Divinity from Yale University Divinity School, and a Doctor of Theology from Harvard University.

She served as pastor of a congregation in Minnesota; director for Global Mission Interpretation for the American Lutheran Church; pastor at Holden Village Retreat Center in Chelan, Washington; and chaplain at Harvard University Divinity School. Rossing has lectured and preached widely, including at synod assemblies and global mission events for the ELCA as well as ecumenical theological conferences. She has served on the executive committee and council of the Lutheran World Federation (2003–10), and chaired the Lutheran World Federation's theology and studies committee. She currently serves on the advisory committee for Living Lutheran magazine.

As a public theologian, her media appearances have included CBS’ “60 Minutes” as well as The History Channel, National Geographic, “Living the Questions,” and numerous print and radio interviews. Her publications include “The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation” (Basic Books, 2004); “The Choice Between Two Cities: Whore, Bride, and Empire in the Apocalypse” (Trinity Press, 1999); two volumes of the “New Proclamation” commentary (Fortress Press, 2000 and 2004); a nine-session Bible study, “Journeys Through Revelation: Apocalyptic Hope for Today” (Presbyterian Women, 2010); and articles and book chapters on the apocalypse and ecology.

Kathryn SchifferdeckerKathryn Schifferdecker

Associate Professor of Old Testament and Chair of the Bible Division at Luther Seminary

Presentation:  Knowing Our Limits: Sabbath and Sustainability

“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” The Sabbath commandment calls for an attitude of restraint, an intentional self-limiting of human striving. It is a gift of God for abundant life, not just for human beings, but for the land itself. It is also a countercultural commandment in our world today, as we realize ever more clearly what it means for us and for the world around us that we have not practiced such restraint. Sustainability is only possible in a world where we know our limits and live within them. The Sabbath texts can guide us in such life-sustaining practices.

Kathryn Schifferdecker has been teaching at Luther Seminary since 2006. Ordained in the ELCA in 2001, Schifferdecker was the associate pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Arkdale, Wisconsin, before coming to Luther.

Schifferdecker is a frequent contributor to publications including Working Preacher and Word & World, and is the author of “Out of the Whirlwind: Creation Theology in the Book of Job” (Harvard University Press, 2008). She is currently writing a commentary on the book of Esther.

Norman WirzbaNorman Wirzba

Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Christian Theology; Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University; and Associate Dean for Faculty Development at Duke University Divinity School

Presentation: Framing Faith with the Stomach in Mind

 What is the connection between what we eat, what we believe, and how we live? In a surprising collision of the simple and the spiritual, professor and ethicist Norman Wirzba will explore why eating is a matter of profound theological significance.

Norman Wirzba earned a Doctor of Philosophy and a Master of Arts from Loyola University in Chicago, Master of Arts from Yale University Divinity School, and a Bachelor of Arts from University of Lethbridge, Alberta.

Wirzba pursues research and teaching interests at the intersections of theology, philosophy, ecology, and agrarian and environmental studies.  He lectures frequently in Canada and the United States, focusing on understanding and promoting practices that can equip both rural and urban church communities to be more faithful and responsible members of creation. His current research is centered on a recovery of the doctrine of creation and a restatement of humanity in terms of its creaturely life.

Wirzba has published “The Paradise of God: Renewing Religion in an Ecological Age” (Oxford University Press, 2003) and “Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight” (Brazos Press, 2016). His recent books include “Way of Love: Recovering the Heart of Christianity” (HarperOne, 2016), “From Nature to Creation: A Christian Vision for Understanding and Loving Our World” (Baker Academic, 2015), “Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating” (Cambridge University Press, 2011), and with Fred Bahnson, “Making Peace with the Land: God’s Call to Reconcile with Creation” (IVP Books, 2012). He also has edited several books, including “The Essential Agrarian Reader: The Future of Culture, Community, and the Land” (University Press of Kentucky, 2003) and “The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry” (Counterpoint, 2003). Wirzba serves as general editor for the book series “Culture of the Land: A Series in the New Agrarianism” (University Press of Kentucky, 2011) and is co-founder and executive committee member of the Society for Continental Philosophy and Theology.