In September 2012, the Center for Environmental Leadership (CEL) and Duke Divinity School’s Center for Reconciliation convened a three-day symposium for Christian leaders concerned about the current food system. The purpose of the symposium was threefold:
- to catalyze a community
- to assess present conditions related to food
- to shape an agenda gathered leaders will commit to advancing together as a group and as individuals 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.
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, 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.
CEL highly recommends Dr. Norman Wirzba's new book published in 2011 entitled Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating. ISBN-10: 0521146240. ISBN-13: 978-0521146241
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.