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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Climate Change and Christian Ethics

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

image of growing grass

Willis Jenkins
Yale University

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
12:00-1:15 PM
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road

Abstract: What must a Christian ethic accomplish in order to adequately address climate change? A wide range of Christian churches have issued statements recognizing climate change as a matter of theological and ethical concern. But in the midst of chronically irresolvable global debates over fairness across inequalities, intergenerational obligations, and responsibilities to other species, those statements seem to offer little help or hope to a global public. Christian ethics should avoid the temptation, Jenkins argues, to content itself with general theological interpretations of the problem and work instead to foment moral and social creativity. Problems with unprecedented moral and physical dimensions challenge theological communities to show how their traditions of faith can generate unanticipated responsibilities.


Willis Jenkins is the Margaret Farley Assistant Professor of Social Ethics at Yale Divinity School, and holds a secondary appointment at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Professor Jenkins' research focuses on environmental ethics, sustainable communities, global ethics, and theological ethics. He is author of Ecologies of Grace: Environmental Ethics and Christian Theology (Oxford, 2008), which won a Templeton Prize for Theological Promise, and editor of several other works. He is also editor of The Spirit of Sustainability, and co-editor of Bonhoeffer and King: Receiving Their Legacies for Christian Social Thought (Fortress Press 2010). Professor Jenkins previously taught at the University of Virginia and on the rural campus of Uganda Christian University. He has significant international experience in community development initiatives, was co-founder of the Episcopal Young Adult Service Corps, and served on the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on World Mission, 2000–2006. He is currently at work on a book entitled Sustainability and Social Justice.


In the News:

A recent article in the New York Times, "Cold Jumps Arctic 'Fence,' Stoking Winter's Fury" (24 January 2011), explores the historic blizzards in the Northeast U.S. and the surprisingly warm weather in northeastern Canada and Greenland. On Wednesday, Feb. 23, Willis Jenkins, professor of social ethics at Yale Divinity School, spoke about the ways in which a Christian ethic can address climate change.