Inaugural Director of Theology, Ecology, and Food Justice Program Named at Baylor’s Truett Seminary
In the Bible’s story of creation, ‘God invites us into a relationship with God, with our neighbors and even with the land itself,’ director says
WACO, Texas (Sept. 2, 2020) — Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary has announced the selection of adjunct professor Jennifer Howell, Ph.D., as the inaugural director of the Theology, Ecology, and Food Justice Program, a grant-funded initiative by World Hunger Relief Inc. (WHRI) and the Baugh Family Foundation.
The Theology, Ecology, and Food Justice Program, which is anticipated to begin in fall 2021, will offer a holistic approach to educating students, ministers and community leaders on the church’s role in matters related to ecology, sustainability and food justice. Program initiatives will include:
“I think there has been confusion—particularly in Protestant circles — about the relationship between creation and our faith. We tend to think of those as separate things,” Howell said. “But if you look at the Bible and the story of creation, you see that God invites us into a relationship with God, with our neighbors and even with the land itself. The hope in doing this program is to re-orient students’ understandings about creation and help them understand that how we care for creation, how we live in and as part of creation, is itself a theological issue.”
Howell holds a B.A. in English literature from Texas A&M University; an M.Div. from Duke Divinity School; and a Ph.D. in theology from Baylor University. Her dissertation focused on German theologian/author Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s understanding of the doctrine of creation. Since 2017, she has taught courses as an adjunct professor in Christian theology at Truett Seminary and the Baylor Honors College.
“Dr. Howell has a well-established network, both here on campus and beyond, of individuals who are engaged in conversations about ecology, agrarianism and food justice,” said Dennis Tucker, Ph.D., associate dean for academic affairs and professor of Christian Scriptures at Truett Seminary, who helped secure the grant for the program and chaired the search committee for the inaugural director. “She also has a demonstratable passion for this work at the intersection of the church and creation. She understands ecology and food justice as biblical and theological issues that should be central to the life of the church”
Strong partnerships between Truett, World Hunger Relief, Inc. and the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty will be key for the program. In addition to the courses and retreats being held at the WHRI farm, the three partners will work together on research and initiatives related to theology, ecology and food justice.
“I am thrilled for the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty to partner with Truett Seminary and World Hunger Relief Inc. to launch the new Theology, Ecology, and Food Justice Program,” said Jeremy Everett, M.Div., executive director of the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty. “As people of faith, we are called to provide food for the hungry and to do so in ways that honor God’s creation. This program, under the leadership of Dr. Jenny Howell, will breathe life into that calling both practically — making healthy food available for children in families living in impoverished communities in the Greater Waco area — and educationally, teaching students how to replicate similar faith-informed food justice initiatives around the world.”
“What a joy it is to witness Truett's program for Theology, Ecology, and Food Justice sprout from the ground here at World Hunger Relief Inc. I am deeply grateful to the Eula Mae & John Baugh Foundation for providing the seed money necessary to bring this innovative program to life,” said Jonathan Grant, executive director of World Hunger Relief Inc. “I am confident that through Dr. Jenny Howell's leadership this initiative will guide Truett and WHRI into a new era of forward-thinking theological vision that includes collaborative partnerships with institutions, foundations, churches and other farms that will strengthen and nourish the work of both entities, while together creating a thriving site of Christian hospitality, community and healing relief for the world.”
Over the next year, Howell will develop the curriculum and programming for the initiative, with opportunities available to students beginning in the fall of 2021, while also exploring funding for the program’s future.
“Creation care and neighbor care are part and parcel of Christian thought and discipleship; human flourishing and ethics are among the signature initiatives of Baylor University’s strategic academic plan Illuminate,” said Todd D. Still, Ph.D., Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran DeLancey Dean and William M. Hinson Professor of Christian Scriptures at Truett Seminary. “Thus, it is both important and timely that Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary is able to collaborate with the World Hunger Relief Inc. and the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty to launch a Theology, Ecology, and Food Justice Program, directed by Dr. Jennifer ‘Jenny’ Howell and funded by the Baugh Family Foundation.
“That (future) ministers, congregations and faith-based organizations will be able to join the psalmist in declaring more robustly that ‘The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it . . . ’ (Psalm 24:1) and will become increasingly committed to being an answer to the prayer that our Lord taught us to pray — ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11) — is a source of encouragement and hope in a season when we stand in need of both.”
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
ABOUT GEORGE W. TRUETT THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary is an orthodox, evangelical school in the historic Baptist tradition that equips God-called people for gospel ministry in and alongside Christ’s Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, Truett Seminary provides theological education leading to the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, Master of Theological Studies, Doctor of Ministry and Ph.D. in Preaching. The MACM and MTS degrees also can be completed at the seminary’s Houston campus. In addition, Truett Seminary offers joint degrees: M.Div./M.S.W. and M.T.S./M.S.W. with the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, M.Div./M.B.A. with the Hankamer School of Business, M.Div./J.D. with Baylor Law School, M.Div./M.M. with the School of Music and M.Div./M.S.Ed. or M.Div./M.A. with the School of Education. Visit baylor.edu/truett to learn more.