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Book Review: Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit

| Posted: January 22, 2023

By Sylvia Sweeney

Few can dispute human beings are on the cusp of a new age the likes of which the world has never seen before. As a result, it is both an exhilarating time to be a preacher and a daunting time. Many Christians believe the most pressing moral and spiritual issue challenging the church today is the imperative to find ways to address the catastrophic unfolding ecological crisis before us. We must find new ways to both hear and communicate scripture at the cusp of this new age, including finding ways to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to a troubled world in unprecedented crisis. Leah Schade’s Creation-Crisis Preaching seeks to help preachers do these things.

This is an astounding book. It will push you to see preaching, faith, the environmental crisis, and Christian mission in new ways. Schade leads us through much of the pioneering theology of the last 20 years as it relates to the topic of creation and ecology. Writing from an ecofeminist
perspective carefully explained and critiqued, she condenses into this 200-page book theological insights from Ruether, Moltmann, Gebara, Gadamer, McFague, Merchant, Santmire, and Luther, to name but a few.

Schade’s work is both practical and theoretical. Using the imagery she seeks to encourage, she promotes three methods for approaching environmental preaching: Flowering, Leafing, Fruiting.

Flowering helps to raise consciousness of important aspects of the ecological crisis and to raise the community’s appreciation for God’s created world. Leafing offers hearers the opportunity to act in response to the needs of the world. Fruiting invites us into a way of living that embraces long-term goals for healing our earth.

Creation-Crisis Preaching asks us to look critically at ways in which scripture has been used as a weapon of oppression and to find ways to reframe scripture to support liberation and hope for the oppressed, including the non-human creatures of God’s creation. Offering four eco-feminist hermeneutical principles for preaching, adapted from the work of Elisabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza and Christine Smith, Schade encourages preachers to use a hermeneutic of earth orientation (as opposed to an anthropocentric orientation), proclamation and power for both the human and other-than-human community of earth,remembrance that recovers lost biblical tradition through an eco-historical-critical eco-feminist reconstruction, and creative actualization that creates narrative amplifications from dormant eco-feminist seeds in the texts (110).

Schade repeatedly pushes our imaginations to new paradigms of preaching, paradigms that reach beyond binaries and beyond anthropocentric understandings of blessedness, suffering, and redemption. The book challenges us to see Christ—and ourselves as preachers—as tricksters, using humor, story, parable, and paradox to disarm listeners into a new creation-centered worldview.

Sprinkled with illuminative examples from the author’s own sermons, this book goes beyond doom and despair to affirmations of the critical role resurrection hope plays in creation-crisis preaching. In one of her sermons, Schade preaches, “I have to believe that God who has brought us through fourteen billion years of time will not abandon us now. That somehow God is working through even this man-made catastrophe of global climate change, deforestation, mass extinction, and toxic poisoning to find a way for life to push through once again. And so I make the choice to believe—and act on my firm belief—that on the other side of the Good Friday of the eco-crucifixion, there is an eco-resurrection waiting to surprise us.” (87).

If you are looking for ways to bring hope to your community through your preaching, I heartily commend this book to you.

The Rev. Dr. Sylvia Sweeney is the Episcopal Preaching Foundation book editor and a faculty member of Bloy House, The Episcopal Theology School of Los Angeles.

Read an excerpt of the book

Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit. Leah D. Schade. St. Louis, Chalice Press: 2015. $29.99.