creation and crisis

Creation in Crisis: Science and Theology Respond

One-Day Digital Conference: In Review

The Creation in Crisis: Science and Theology Respond Conference focused on the urgent environmental crisis facing humanity and our entire planet. We were privileged to welcome Nalini Nadkarni, Cornelia Mutel, and Larry Rasmussen as our keynote presenters and panelists. Each brought insightful perspectives on the ethical challenges we face in responding to this global crisis.

WTS Dean Nessan shared of our time together: “Something amazing came together at the Creation in Crisis conference! Forced to adapt to delivery by livestreaming under the conditions of pandemic, instead of cancelling the WTS team succeeded in providing the daylong conference to grateful participants from across the country. The presentations were contextual related to the pandemic, fascinating to the participants, substantive in scientific content, practical in providing real-to-life examples, and engaging with calls to action for climate justice.”

This one-day digital conference was offered as a result of Wartburg’s grant award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to participate in the Science for Seminaries project of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER) Program.

Dr. Nalini Nadkarni Speaker Details

Dr. Nalini Nadkarni and her work in the Costa Rican rain forest were featured in the 1988 PBS series, The Second Voyage of the Mimi, starring a young Ben Affleck. She maintains an interest in public outreach, and her work was highlighted on the web page of the National Science Foundation. She is the author of Between Earth and Sky: Our Intimate Connections to Trees and has delivered TED Talks on Conserving the Canopy and Life Science in Prison. An Emeritus Professor at The Evergreen State College, she currently is a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Utah.

Plenary Presentation

When preaching to the choir isn’t preaching to the choir: Conservation by scientists and faith-based groups
Nalini Nadkarni

How can academic scientists and religious groups work together to protect Earth’s biodiversity and ecosystem functions? Nadkarni will describe her efforts to find common ground with people in a broad range of religious faiths to create synergistic activities that raise awareness about the importance of conservation.

Chapel Talk

Dr. Nadkarni also spoke in WTS’ daily chapel service, video below.

Dr. Larry Rasmussen Speaker Details

Dr. Larry L. Rasmussen is Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, New York City. He is the author of Earth-Honoring Faith: Religious Ethics in a New Key (Oxford University Press, 2013). He served as a member of the Science, Ethics, and Religion Advisory Committee of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science). He was a recipient of many awards including the Burnice Fjellman Award for Distinguished Christian Ministries in Higher Education. From 1990-2000 he served as co-moderator of the World Council of Churches unit, Justice, Peace, Creation. He was the organizer of the decade project on Earth-Honoring Faith at Ghost Ranch, 2008 – 2017. In the Spring Semester 2018 he was guest professor at Union Theological Seminary and Yale University Divinity School. In the summer session of 2019 he taught in Cambridge University, England.

Plenary Presentation

A Love Letter from One Geological Epoch to Another
Larry Rasmussen

A letter to my grandson about the world he is entering and the one I am leaving. Why the contrast matters for Christian faith and life.

Spiritual Practices Course

Dr. Rasmussen also gave a presentation for the WTS student community in their spiritual practices course.

Cornelia Mutel Speaker Details

Cornelia Mutel has written many diverse publications about Iowa’s natural history and ecological restoration, and is a regular speaker on these subjects. Her most recent books include The Emerald Horizon: The History of Nature in Iowa (2008); A Watershed Year: Anatomy of the Iowa Floods of 2008 (2010); and A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland (2016). Before her recent retirement, she was Senior Science Writer at the University of Iowa’s IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering, College of Engineering.


Plenary Presentation

Cherishing Creation, Challenging Climate Change: An Iowa Story
Connie Mutel

Why has climate change been anointed “humanity’s greatest existential crisis of all time”? How is it transforming Iowa? How can each of us address this crisis? Mutel will combine her life story and love of nature with climate science to help resolve these broad questions.

Workshop Leaders

Savanna Sullivan serves as Program Director for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Young Adult Ministries. She is also a Master of Arts student at Wartburg Theological Seminary.

Kellie Lisi is a diaconal candidate in the ELCA and Master of Arts student at Wartburg Theological Seminary. She is also the founder of the Sustainability Task Force at WTS.


Creation Care for Lent, Creation Care for Life
Workshop lead by Savanna Sullivan, MA Student and Kellie Lisi, MADM Student

This Lent, the Young Adults of the ELCA launched the #NoPlasticsforLent Initiative. This began a movement that reached thousands, gained national traction, and was written about in The New Yorker this month. #NoPlasticsforLent, led by the young people of the ELCA at every level, included theological and practical reflection presented in an interactive online platform. Come hear what we’ve learned about online faith-based Creation Care initiatives and mobilization, and join the conversation about following the leadership of young people of faith in the movement to care for a Creation in Crisis.