- to explore scripture, Christian and other religious traditions, and contemporary scholarship for insights that inform a theological response to the ecological crisis;
- to educate educators and students, policy makers and activists, the public and members of faith communities about the challenges and solutions to the ecological crisis;
- to bring voices from science and religion into a creative dialogue, and to contribute both to those discussions and to the research and publications that can follow;
- to develop and offer new liturgical expressions that explore the sacred dimension of creation.
Historical, Theological, and Ecological Roots of the Institute
Although courses in theology and ecology had been offered at the University of St Michael’s for several years prior to 1991, it was in that year that the faculty decided to respond to a growing need expressed by students by creating the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology. Under the direction of Professor Stephen Dunn, a member of the faculty, the Institute developed a certificate programme that permitted students to acquire a specialization in theology and ecology while they concurrently completed a graduate degree in theology at either the master or doctoral level. This opportunity was open to theology students at St. Michael's College or any of the other colleges in the Toronto School of Theology. Courses in eco-theology (including eco-feminism, eco-justice, eco-economics and eco-ethics) were developed and delivered at St. Michael's. The cross-disciplinary structure of the specialization also permitted students to complete and integrate relevant, non-theological graduate courses offered through the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto into their theological programme. This approach to theological education respected both the learning goals of the student and the academic rigor of a graduate programme.
Since the beginning of the Institute in 1991, many TST students have taken one or two courses offered by the Institute during the course of their studies because of a general interest in ecotheology. Other students have met the requirements of the Institute in order to complete a specialization in theology and ecology while concurrently fulfilling the requirements of their theological degree. Many master and doctoral level students have also made an eco-theological topic the focus of both their studies and thesis. The opportunity to complete a doctorate with an eco-theological focus has been an attractive feature for study at St Michael’s College.
In addition to the certificate programme that permits students to explore the relationships between theology and ecology in a deeper manner, the Institute also hosts several public lectures each year, as well as the Annual Summer Lecture, which bring experts in a variety of fields into dialogue with theologians so that issues pertaining to the ecological challenges before us might be creatively explored. Past speakers have included Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Theodore Roszak, Dieter Hessel, Teri McLuhan, and Chung Hyun Kyung, to name but a few.