Called to Creation Care

To commemorate Earth Day 2022, here’s a look at some ways Bethel is developing practices of sustainability and stewardship that honor our community's deep commitment to creation care.

By Michelle Smith Westlund '83, S'21, senior content specialist

April 22, 2022 | 10 a.m.

Green Campus

Visitors frequently comment on the natural beauty of Bethel’s lakeside campus—and a commitment to creation care helps preserve that beauty for future generations of students.

April 22 is Earth Day 2022. This year’s theme, according to Earth Day’s website, is “Invest in Our Planet” and calls for a partnership for the planet—a collaboration of businesses, governments, and citizens—to “act with unstoppable courage to preserve and protect our health, our families, our livelihoods.” Such an observance—and action—are vitally necessary to the conservation of the earth we humans call home. And for Christians, there’s a deeper motivation connected to our spirituality itself: a call to creation care.

Creation care can be seen as a spiritual practice, a commitment to “cultivating green virtues and deeper attunement to the Spirit,” says Glen Scorgie, Bethel Seminary professor of theology. After 26 years of teaching and scholarship at Bethel Seminary, Scorgie is retiring in spring 2022—but not before he teaches an ethics course this semester called “Creation Care and the Church,” an area of particular interest and expertise for him. “Christians need more than fact-based convictions or even a good theology of creation care, important as these are,” Scorgie explains. “We also need a spirituality that has the power to motivate and fuel our commitment to creation care. We need certain sustaining dispositions, certain habits of the heart. And these grow as we learn to care more deeply about the things that our Creator God cares about.”

The connection between spirituality and the natural world has been thoughtfully explored by generations of Christian thinkers. “Christians have praised the display of God’s presence in the natural world since the beginning of the church,” says Christian History magazine, in a special 2016 creation-themed issue of which Scorgie served as advisory co-editor. This relationship was expressed with remarkable clarity more than 40 years ago by Gus Speth, chair of the Council on Environmental Quality during the Carter Administration (1977-1981): “I used to think that the top environmental concerns were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse, and climate change,” said Speth. “I thought that 30 years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

The task seems overwhelming, but as with all transformation, change starts with individual hearts and minds, moves to individual action, then gains momentum with collaborative effort: a partnership for the planet, as Earth Day 2022 encourages everyone to do. At Bethel, there are numerous initiatives that support creation care and provide opportunities to practice it right here in our own community. In honor of Earth Day, we highlight a few of them:


  • Royal Gardens. Bethel has grown produce on campus in the Royal Gardens for the past 10 years, interrupted only by the pandemic in 2020-2021. The homegrown produce—including tomatoes, kale, potatoes, and herbs—is used in recipes at Bethel’s dining center.


  • Recycling. Bethel participates in recycling efforts in the dining center and campus-wide. Vegetable peels and leftover food scraps are collected by a local food recycling company and used as animal feed for a local pig farm. An eco-container program encourages students to reuse a washable take-out container rather than disposable packaging, with more than 700 students participating.


  • Green Roof. A sustainable alternative to regular roofing, Bethel’s green roof is located above Brushaber Commons. The roof absorbs moisture rather than creating run-off, and also provides research opportunities for Bethel biology students. 


  • Royal Honey Hives. The university’s own bee hives produced a record harvest of 24 gallons of honey in 2021. Royal honey is used to make “energy bites,” a popular student snack available on campus, and is also bottled and sold in Royal Grounds, Bethel’s coffee shop.


  • Creation Care and the Church. In October 2022, a four-week version of Glen Scorgie’s creation care ethics course will be offered through Bethel’s Seminary for Everyone, an online program that provides flexible, easily accessible seminary courses.


Your journey starts here.

At Bethel, a Christian perspective is integrated into every facet of our community. From the sustainable practices implemented in our dining center to the creation care ethics taught in our classrooms, faith is at the center of everything we do. 

Learn more