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Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative


Renewing theological education for the 21st century, we equip religious leaders with the knowledge, skills, and pastoral habits necessary to guide congregations and other faith-based organizations into creating more redemptive food systems, where God’s shalom becomes visible for a hungry world.

  • Create courses across the curriculum emphasizing the themes of stewardship of and within Creation, and that highlight food’s pivotal place in that stewardship.
  • Equip students with the knowledge, skills, and experience so that they can lead on these issues in the church and not-for-profit ministries.
  • Develop research and publications across the core areas of theological education on these themes, and generate resources for faith communities who want to learn, worship, and serve more effectively as stewards of Creation and leaders in creating food systems that embody shalom.
  • Build partnerships in worship, service, and education around food issues within the university, with the Piedmont and Western mountain regions of North Carolina, and with national and international partners.
  • Teach and cultivate the theological habit that living in peace with the land and with non-human Creation is a core pastoral practice for religious leaders and the communities with whom they serve.


Ecotones of the Spirit
a speaker & event series on the intersection
of ecology, spirituality, and food justice

An ecotone is a transition zone between two ecosystems. It’s the place where two distinct communities meet and integrate: field and forest, ocean and estuary, scrub and grassland. In these interstitial zones between ecosystems the greatest exchanges of life are taking place. Ecotones are rich and fecund, brimming with abundance. They are also places of risk, uncertainty, and sometimes death.

For those of us working on issues like food insecurity, sustainable agriculture, or climate change, we find ourselves simultaneously inhabiting places rich with opportunity and yet full of devastating loss. These challenges call for a strenuous, sustained response. Yet how do sustain our spirits in the face of set-backs? How do we develop a spirituality for the long haul? And what riches do we find in the Christian contemplative tradition that might help us on our journey? 

These are some of the questions that find a focal point in a conversation called “contemplative ecology.” In his book Blue Sapphire of the Mind, theologian Douglas Christie writes, “Contemplative ecology can best be understood as an expression of the diverse and wide-ranging desire emerging within contemporary culture to identify our deepest feeling for the natural world as part of a spiritual longing.” 

Bringing together food activists, writers, and theologians, the Ecotones of the Spirit Speaker Series will convene conversations around contemplative ecology. These gatherings will create a space where ecological and social challenges—food insecurity, climate change, environmental racism—can be held in tension with Isaiah’s assurance that “By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies.”

The series begins on Thursday, March 19, and concludes with a half-day conference on Tuesday, April 14th.

Thursday, March 19,2015  |  7:00pm
Brendle Recital Hall, Scales Fine Arts Center | Wake Forest University

Pashon Murray, founder of Detroit Dirt: Urban Renewal From the Ground Up and a media fellow at MIT with Van Jones and others in the green jobs movement, will speak about food, faith, and the empowerment of underserved communities in Detroit through the creation of green jobs.

This event is co-sponsored by the WFU Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship, and the Masters of Sustainability program.

View Pashon’s famous video (a spoof off of this Cadillac ad):

Wednesday, March 25  |  7:00pm
Wait Chapel  |  Wake Forest University

Rev. Sally Bingham, founder of InterFaith Power & Light, will speak.

Thursday, March 26  |  11:00am
Davis Chapel, Wingate Hall  |  Wake Forest University

Rev. Sally Bingham will preach in the School of Divinity’s community worship service.

Tuesday, April 14  |  3:00 – 9:00pm
Brendle Recital Hall, Scales Fine Arts Center | Wake Forest University

This concluding half-day conference will feature various speakers including:

  • Dr. Douglas Christie, author of Blue Sapphire of the Mind: Notes on a Contemplative Ecology,
  • Leah Kostamo, author of Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling, and Community,
  • Gary Paul Nabhan,W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Arizona Southwest Center, and
  • Dr. Tyson-Lord J. Gray, religious scholar and an environmental activist. 

More information will be posted here and at http://www.divinity.wfu.edu/events

Who We Serve

Clergy, congregations, divinity studentsfaith-based non-profits, community gardenersfood activists, and any faith leader confronting community health issues caused by substandard food systems.

From the Dean

Food — food access, food quality, food production — is one of the defining issues of this generation. The rapid growth of local food and farm-to-table movements has sparked a creative and essential conversation that links the revitalization of rural economies, food access for urban neighborhoods, and the health and well-being of all our communities. Connecting food and faith is about our care of the earth and of one another — the core realities of our vocations as children of God. We need to be educating religious leaders who understand that caring for creation is an essential pastoral practice in working for the kingdom of God. 

Gail R. O’Day, Dean of the School of Divinity and Professor of New Testament and Preaching

From the Director

Over the past seven years, I’ve witnessed the rise of a new faith-based food movement. From congregation-supported community gardens to farmworker justice, there’s a deep desire among people of faith to reconnect with the sources of their daily bread and to those who produce it. Far from a passing trend, I believe this renewed interest in food, justice, and sustainability is driven by an even deeper hunger: the desire to see embodied what the biblical writers call shalom, that graced state of being that results from a right relationship between God, people, and the land. Our work with the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative is to support, nurture, and encourage that shalom.

Fred Bahnson, Director