Just Launched: Introducing Christian Vegetarianism with Steve Kaufman

Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom (1826), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

We just launched Introducing Christian Vegetarianism with Steve Kaufman For Individuals and For Groups.

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, scripture has much to say about food. The Old Testament spends a lot of time on foods that are considered clean and unclean, while the New Testament spends time explaining that foods that were once considered unclean can now be considered clean (Acts 10:12-15). We are exhorted to enjoy food (Ecclesiastes 2:24) but not to overdo it habitually (Proverbs 23:20-21); to be generous in sharing food without expecting repayment (Luke 14:12-1). These are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the Bible’s many rules and nuggets of advice about food.

After Adam and Eve leave the innocent world of Eden, however, nobody is exhorted at any point to be a vegetarian. God even provides the children of Israel with quails when they demand meat (though the meat does makes some of them sick) (Numbers 11:31-32). So why should Christians today take seriously the idea that the Christian life calls us to vegetarianism?

In this course, Steve Kaufman makes a strong case that a vegetarian lifestyle allows Christians of today to live in accordance with ethical themes that run throughout the Bible in a way that we cannot do easily as consumers of meat. Partly, he emphasizes, this is because of the way we raise animals for food today. We are stewards of creation, and the impact that raising animals for meat has on creation today is not responsible stewardship. Partly, he argues, God wants us to live as nonviolently as possible. If we can avoid eating meat to survive, we should do so.

In Eden, God’s unsullied world, humans didn’t need to kill animals because there was an abundance of vegetable food — so they lived on plants. In Isaiah’s vision of the future God will bring, animals will not need to kill one another for food (Isaiah 11). Killing animals might have been necessary in order for most people to get enough calories in the past, but with today’s food production systems, many of us can live healthy lives eating as vegetarians. In this course, Steve discusses reasons we should consider doing so and also offers practical suggestions about getting started. Steve’s video lectures include:

  • Biblical Foundations of Vegetarianism
  • Theology and Vegetarianism
  • Climate Change and Vegetarianism
  • Getting Started with Vegetarianism

This course is ideal for anyone interested in Christian ethics or creation care. We hope you enjoy it.

 

Just Launched: How Pets Connect Us with God with Emily Mellott

We just launched How Pets Connect Us with God with Emily Mellott For Individuals and For Groups.

Humanity’s relationship with pets goes back a long way. Humans were still hunter-gatherers when we first domesticated dogs around 11,000 years ago. Cats were pickier about aligning with humans, waiting until about 8000 years ago to be domesticated (though in their case, evidence suggests we didn’t so much domesticate them as accept their decision to live with us.)

The nature of human relationships with pets has developed over thousands of years. Today, it differs across the world. In western culture, many pets offer humans companionship, amusement, distraction, and even exercise. When we are sad, troubled, or tired, snuggling with that kind of pet can bring comfort and peace, and they give us opportunities to offer love and care for them. Other animals with whom we might have less affectionate relationships offer endless opportunities for wonder, curiosity, and surprise.

Bringing an animal into our home as a pet bring us out of our human-focused mindset and into direct relationship with an element of God’s created world. When we observe a cat stretching, wonder at the graceful movements of tropical fish in a tank, try to discern how our pet bird thinks when it sees the world so differently from how we see it, we are taking opportunities to connect with creation in all its diverse glory. The fact that we often seek out these opportunities — that, in a culture where many of us no longer need pets for practical reasons, so many of us take on the expense and responsibility of caring for animals — suggests that some quality deep in human nature longs for this connection with the created world.

In this class, the Rev. Emily Mellott discusses ways in which our connection with animals brings humans, ultimately, into relationship with God, and ways in which mindful animal care can help bring us closer to God. Click below for a preview.

Articulating the Via Media

Embracing the mystery requires great (1)

This week, we’re pleased to launch The Episcopal Way, with Stephanie Spellers and Eric Law. If you’ve ever wondered about what makes the Episcopal Church unique, this course is a great place to start, as it’s a foretaste of a project seeking to rearticulate the beliefs and practices of the Episcopal Church. As Spellers says in the first lesson, about every 20 years the Episcopal Church commits to reexamining and defining itself as a church, as part of the Episcopal commitment to the “three-legged stool” of scripture, tradition, and reason, on which Episcopal liturgy and practice are based.

We commend this course to lifelong Episcopalians as well, since we live in a fast-paced and ever-changing culture, in which we need to feel comfortable articulating and sharing our faith tradition. Stephanie and Eric offer a working definition of “the Episcopal Way” as well as some engaging insight on why the Episcopal Church is especially relevant and life-giving in this day and age.

You may also want to take this course in a small group setting, either among newcomers to the church or those in leadership. Either way, you’ll enjoy and appreciate Eric and Stephanie’s engaging, insightful, and interesting discussions, as you think more deeply about this rich faith tradition — and its future.

TREC 1: Reimagining Church Leadership launches today

TREC stands for Task-Force for Reimaining the Episcopal Church, and we’re excited to help further its mission by offering three courses, the first of which launches today, to spark thought, prayer, reflection, and conversation about the future of the Church.

TREC arose out of a charge by the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church to create a plan for reforming the Church’s structures, governance, and administration. What does that mean? Simply — and complexly — this means that a group of thought leaders is tasked with reimagining and reinvigorating the Episcopal Church so that “we may more faithfully

• Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
• Teach, baptize and nurture new believers
• Respond to human need by loving service
• Seek to transform unjust structures of society
• Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.” (more here)

In TREC 1: Reimagining Church Leadership, we hear from three thinkers who have much to offer on the topic of reimagining leadership in the Church: Dwight Zscheile, Associate Professor of Congregational Leadership and Mission at Luther Seminary; Frederica Harris Thompsett, Mary Wolfe Professor of Historical Theology at Episcopal Divinity School; and Winnie Varghese, rector of St. Mark’s in the Bowrey in New York City. We explore Christlike leadership and innovation, our baptismal covenant as it relates to leadership and imagination, and the concept of truth-telling, both by and to our leaders.trec

What’s exciting about this Task Force is that part of its commission is to “gather information and ideas from congregations, dioceses and provinces, and other interested individuals and organizations, including those not often heard from; engage other resources to provide information and guidance, and … invite all these constituencies to be joined in prayer as they engage in this common work of discernment.” Taking part in these ChurchNext courses is one way to engage in this process.

All who are interested in church governance in general, or in the Episcopal Church in particular, will find much of interest and use in these courses. Click here for more information or to register.