In expressing our concern for the ecological crisis, the Institute seeks integrative methods for contributing to the healing of the Earth in all of its life systems. The Elliott Allen Institute for Theology & Ecology (EAITE) is a collaborative teaching and research institute that offers a Certificate of Specialization in Theology and Ecology in each of the graduate programs of the Faculty of Theology at the University of St. Michael’s College, part of the Toronto School of Theology in the University of Toronto. Interdisciplinary by definition, the Institute facilitates serious contact between the theological disciplines and the scientific, cosmological, and cultural paradigm shifts that are shaping our times.
- to explore scripture, tradition, experience and contemporary scholarship to inform a theological response to the ecological challenges that beset the planet
- to develop and offer new liturgical expressions for exploring creation spirituality
- to educate teachers and students, policy makers and activists, the public and members of faith communities about challenges and solutions to the ecological crisis
- to promote scholarly research and mentor students in graduate programs
- to provide lectures, conferences, colloquia and workshops
- to be a resource to the news media, policy makers and educators
Collaboration and Integration
- to bring voices from academia—including science and the humanities—and from the arts, politics, NGOs and activist communities into creative dialogues concerning eco-theological issues
- to explore issues of economic, social, political, gender and ecological justice as these relate to eco-theology
Although courses in theology and ecology had been offered at the University of St. Michael’s College for several years prior to 1991, it was in that year that the Faculty of Theology decided to respond to a growing need expressed by theology students and created the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology & Ecology. Under the direction of Professor Stephen Dunn, a member of the Faculty, and through the inspiration of the work of cultural historian Fr. Thomas Berry, the Institute developed a certificate programme that permitted students at the Toronto School of Theology (TST) to acquire a specialization in theology and ecology while they concurrently completed a graduate degree in theology. Students have also been able to complete master and doctoral level theses in ecotheology (including ecospirituality, ecofeminism and ecoethics) as well as interdisciplinary theses involving ecotheology since 1991 – a pioneering accomplishment of the EAITE. In addition to courses that enable students to explore the relationships between theology and ecology on a deeper level, the Institute has also hosted public lectures, bringing experts in a variety of fields into dialogue with theologians so that issues pertaining to the ecological challenges might be creatively explored. Lectures have been delivered by: Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Heather Eaton, Anne Marie Dalton, Christopher Key Chapple, Stephen Bede Scharper, Edmund O’Sullivan, Anne Lonergan, John Haught, Dorothy Golden Rosenberg, John Grim, Marianne Karsh, and Celia Deane-Drummond.
Since its inception, the EAITE has enjoyed a close relationship with the Passionists of Canada and the retreat centre that they owned for many years at Port Burwell Ontario—the Holy Cross Centre for Ecology and Spirituality. Through this creative partnership, the work of the Institute has been enlarged and enhanced. Members of the EAITE participated in the colloquia and retreats at the Centre with such speakers as Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, Theodore Roszak, Teri McLuhan, David Orr and Chung Hyun Kyung, among others. The student members of the Institute also had the opportunity to bring their classroom education to the everyday activities of a retreat centre including time for reflection in a more rural setting, and the chance to help design and deliver retreats and workshops. Now that the Centre for Ecology and Spirituality has moved to the Passionist Centre at St. Gabriel’s Parish in Toronto, the students of the Institute have new opportunities to bring their theological studies to practical service when they contribute to the monthly EcoSabbath gatherings and the annual Advent-Solstice evening.