Scholars, speakers gather at Baylor’s Stewardship of Creation symposium

Calvin DeWitt, University of Wisconsin-Madison Chair, spoke on The Bible and Environmentalism at the Stewardship of Creation Syposium on Thursday afternoon. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Bridget Sjoberg | Staff Writer

Students and faculty are gathering Wednesday through Friday to discuss the relationship between faith and nature at the Baylor’s Stewardship of Creation symposium.

The event, which started Wednesday and concludes this afternoon, is part of the Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, a yearly conference that picks a specific faith-related topic to address through guest speakers and discussions. The event is always presented through the Baylor Institute for Faith and Learning.

This year’s theme, Stewardship of Creation, focuses on the interaction between faith and the world around us and the role of Christians in caring for creation. It considers “opportunities and challenges for people of faith as they observe the divine mandate to care for creation,” according to the program’s website. Past themes include “The Bible and the Reformation” and “Faith and Film.”

Dr. Rebecca Hays, program coordinator for the Institute for Faith and Learning, recognizes the symposium as a gathering spot for distinguished guest speakers who have true passions in their academic fields. Speakers this year include Jeffrey Ball of Stanford University and Philip Bess of the University of Notre Dame. Baylor scholars such as Susan Bratton, an environmental science professor, and Ralph Wood, university professor of theology and literature, also spoke.

“The symposium provides Baylor students with opportunities to hear from and have conversations with top scholars in their fields from across the country and around the globe,” Hays said. “Many of these scholars embody Baylor’s mission of integrating academic excellence with Christian commitment and serve as excellent examples for how our students can think about their faith animating the work they’re doing in their chosen areas of study.”

The event began with a pre-conference field trip to Mission Waco with co-president and founder Jimmy Dorrell. Other activities of the week combine featured speaker presentations and choices of “colloquium sessions” and panel presentations about topics like renewable energy, nature through literature and the Bible’s view on environmentalism.

Dr. Lori Kanitz, assistant director of the Institute of Faith and Learning, said she hopes the event encourages attendees to learn and create open discussions about faith and nature.

“So much of the dialogue about stewardship of creation has been co-opted politically, making the church hesitant to take it up,” Kanitz said. “Yet from the very first words of Genesis 1, Hebrew and Christian Scripture suggests that all of creation is a priceless gift from a creator that reflects his glory, elicits wonder and praise and for which humans have been made responsible. We hope the conference creates opportunities to de-politicize the dialogue and re-theologize it.”

Center junior Chloe Gipson is a Christian and studies anthropology at Baylor. She believes that faith and creation can coexist and sees caring for nature as a Christian duty.

“I believe that faith and nature can’t exist without each other — my studies have really opened my eyes to the idea that you can’t comprehend one concept without the other,” Gipson said. “As a Christian, I think it’s one of our utmost responsibilities to care for this planet and share awareness. We should treat creation with the same respect that we are taught to treat our earthly brothers and sisters.”

Gipson appreciates the Institute of Faith and Learning putting on events like the symposium to open up discussions about important theological topics.

“It’s important that we create opportunities for conversations like these to transpire,” Gipson said. “It allows people to hear each other’s perspectives and equips our community with more than one lens to view the world with. It helps to further develop and mold the future world leaders that are being created here at Baylor.”