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UMC Clergy Connect Theology and Nature During Journey to Peru

November 30, 2016

A group of 18 Methodists, including 12 United Methodist clergy, recently journeyed to Peru for the Ecotheology Travel Seminar. The seminar was created to serve as a training tool for the church’s focus on environmental issues. As the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) is tasked with providing greater awareness of global ecological crises in clergy education and training (Section 1023, Book of Resolution, 2012), the trip was one of several initiatives to remind clergy about their responsibility to care for God's creation. 

The Ecotheology Travel Seminar was hosted by the GBHEM’s Clergy Lifelong Learning Office, in partnership with the Methodist Church of Peru. Dr. HeeAn Choi from Boston University School of Theology, Dr. Laurel Kearns from Drew University School of Theology and Dr. Guillermo Yoshikawa from Colegio America traveled with the group to offer assistance through their respective focuses in practical theology, ecotheology, and Peruvian history and culture. Dr. Julio Ruben Quintanilla Yoshikawa, a medical doctor at Medico Cirujano; Dr. HiRho Park, executive director of Clergy Lifelong Learning at GBHEM; and Joshua Hestand, coordinator of Clergy Lifelong Learning at GBHEM, also accompanied the clergy on the trip.

Starting in Miami, the seminar opened with a briefing on ecotheology and theological reflection. The group explored the interrelationships between spirituality, nature, stewardship of creation and the church’s responsibility in regards to the environmental concerns in Peru (deforestation, air pollution, water pollution, soil erosion, etc.).

“The trip to Peru offered the clergy a wonderful opportunity to connect with nature and witness the integrity of God’s creation, while reaffirming our commitment as disciples of Christ to be good stewards of God’s creation,” said Park. “As GBHEM continues to raise consciousness on environmental concerns including environmental justice issues and Christian responsibility, the Clergy Lifelong Learning office is encouraging local churches and annual conferences to develop appropriate ways to celebrate God’s creation.”

Seminar participants were required to be in good physical condition and have the ability to sustain high altitudes as the seminar took the group through hikes in Machu Picchu, Incan ruins in Cuzco and lengthy treks in the Manu Amazon Rainforest. The group also traveled to many other areas across the country, including Pilcopata, Atalaya, Parrot Clay Lick, Machuwasi Lake and Salvador Lake. The 10-day trip ended with a meeting in Lima with the bishop and leaders in the Methodist Church of Peru.

Each participant is required to write a theological reflection paper and attend two online sessions on ecotheology following the trip. All reflection papers will be available online.

The clergy participating in the Ecotheology Travel Seminar included: Sharon Genise Austin, Jane Berman Cheema, Laura Zuleme Delaplain, Sara Jo Emmerich, Betsy Jane Florence, Mary Lautzenhiser Fraser, Hyewon Sophia Hyon, Cynthia Lindenmeyer, Gregory William McGonigle, Kee Boem So and Mark Ronald Terwilliger.  

The following resources provide additional information on the church’s focus on ecotheology: A Companion Litany to Our Social Creed (¶166, Book of Discipline, 2012), Environmental Justice for a Sustainable Future (Section 1023, Book of Resolution, 2012), God’s Creation and the Church (Section 1027, Book of Resolution, 2012) and U.S. Energy and United Methodist Responsibility (Section 1002, Book of Resolution, 2012)

Visit to learn more about the Clergy Lifelong Learning Office at GBHEM.

About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to prepare global leaders for a global church and the world. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call on their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.