Food systems that reflect biblical values and principles will produce healthy, just, and ecologically sustainable food for all. Where food systems fall short, as CEL believes our current food system does, Christians should work together to change and improve the prevaling food system for the common good.
To address issues and concerns regarding food CEL convened a three-day symposium at the end of 2012 in partnership with Duke Divinity School’s Center for Reconciliation. The purpose of the symposium was threefold:
– to catalyze a community of Christians interested in food related issues
– to assess the present conditions of food production, distribution, and consumption.
– to shape a food focused agenda that gathered leaders could commit to advancing within their spheres of influence.
All attendees agreed the time was right for Christian individuals and groups concerned about food to come together and collaborate for greater collective impact to help reform the current food system so it better reflects Christian values and principles: that is, a food system that produces healthy, just, and ecologically sustainable food for all.
AN AGENDA TO IMPLEMENT
The practical outcome of the food symposium was the following action-item agenda organized into four broad categories: general, educational, economic, and cultural. We discussed potential activities to support each of these agenda items, but those ideas are not listed here and will be pursued through ongoing collaborative discussions and relationships that were started at the symposium.
1. Produce a brief Christian declaration on food and faith that publically proclaims the biblical reasons why Christians should care about the integrity of America’s food system and lends support for those Christians who are actively committed to reforming the system so it produces healthy, just, and ecologically sustainable food for all. This declaration will be promoted for leaders, organizations, and individuals to sign and support so as to bring awareness to this issue and coalesce an identifiable Christian food movement.
The writing team for this declaration currently includes Dr. Norman Wirzba, Dr. Ellen Davis, Dr. Chris Elisara, Dr. Will Samson, Samuel Ewell, Fred Bahnson, Ragan Sutterfield, Rev. Steve Fortenberry, and Greg Bowman. Others will be added during the drafting and approval process.
2. Create a Christian “food hub” (i.e., an online clearing house) that helps to link people, organizations, and information together (including a Christian WOOFing guide).
3. To host future regional gatherings in addition to more national gatherings.
4. To broaden the Christian food coalition by intentionally seeking relationships with affinity organizations such as the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), domestic hunger organizations, colleges and universities with agriculture related programs, churches and denominations with health and/or food-growing ministries, etc.
1. Identify, produce, and/or promote quality educational resource materials needed by congregations, organizations, and individuals. For example, guides for starting community and/or congregational gardens, bible studies, etc.
2. Support existing places, programs, and “schools of conversion” where Christians can learn agrarian skills, practices, and culture. Examples include Anathoth Farm in Cedar Grove, NC., Goodness Grows in North Lima, OH, and CCSP’s Cascadia program, on Camano Island, Forest Lake Presbyterian Church’s Kids’ Garden in Columbia, SC, and Liberty University’s forthcoming campus garden in Lynchburg, VA.
3. Help identify and assist development of new educational programs to fill gaps not currently being met by existing educational programs. This might take the form of something like a domestically focused “ECHO-like” center and/or a program focused on medium scale sustainable agriculture like the one being developed by Goodness Grows in North Lima, OH.
1. To be a prophetic voice for a just and sustainable food economy.
2. To promote economic policies, models, and practical solutions consistent with a just and sustainable food economy.
1. Foster and create a culture that supports and sustains Christian agrarianism. This entails encouraging cultural producers and cultural arts of all types, including:
a. Writers, poets, musicians, filmmakers, visual artists, etc.
b. Cooking, food processing, and other food skills and arts.
c. Resources for hospitality and celebrations.
d. Resources for worship.
We believe this book will make a significant contribution to Christian’s outlook on food and food production. Here’s a review by Englewood Review of Books. Here’s one by Christian Epicurean. Norman wrote a guest column for the Washington Post on July 15, 2011 entitled Is Food a Faith Issue? which you can read at this link. And finally here’s a link to a PBS interview with Norman on July 16, 2011 about food and faith.