A photograph of Cherice Bock against a gray and green background

Dissertation Watch: Intersecting Religion and Environmental Studies Amidst the Climate Crisis

Cherice Bock, a 2024 graduate of Antioch’s PhD in Environmental Studies, recently published her dissertation titled Ecotheology in Context: A Critical Phenomenological Study of Graduates of Environmentally Focused Seminary Programs in the United States of America.

Ecotheology is the study of religion and how humans have exploited the resources given to them through their environment, specifically through the lens of Christianity, a growing topic amidst the discussion of climate change. A range of disciplines within the religious academia have taken up concerns termed “ecologically informed theological education.” Faith leaders and theological educators have created degree programs and certifications that incorporate awareness of ecology, sustainability, and care for creation. 

Bock examined the experiences of past and current graduate students working to put ecotheology practice into their lives and workplace. To find her participants, Brock used subjects who had taken at least three seminary courses in one of 14 seminaries in the United States of America. These seminaries had a program, certification, or emphasis related to religion and environment or had incorporated environmental awareness into their core curriculum. 

Follow-up demographics and short answer questionnaires provided data about seminary students’ experiences of courses related to environmental care and what participants are doing with these degrees outside the academy. The types of actions participants had taken that they consider pro-environmental at various levels (personal/household, social network, congregation, public and community, and cultural values/worldview) were described as well as in-depth interviews to study the phenomenon of putting environmental care into action as an expression of participants’ faith. 

During Bock’s findings, a new theory of an “expansively Christian ecotheology of orthopraxis” emerged, as she discovered participants still struggled to connect personal actions to communal or systemic change toward the health and wellbeing of the community.  

As someone who has taught in higher education for over a decade, often intersecting religion and environment, Bock also has been involved in her community while working at nonprofit and faith-based organizations that have a focus on the environment, sustainability, and climate change. She has worked as an adjunct professor of spirituality and ecospirtuality as well as working at 350PDX as a climate policy manager.

As a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Bock considers environmental and climate issues to be the social justice issue of our time. She works toward a just transition to a sustainable future for the community of all life through environmental and climate justice. Along with her MS and PhD in environmental studies from Antioch University New England, Bock also holds a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. 

Read more about Bock and her dissertation Ecotheology in Context: A Critical Phenomenological Study of Graduates of Environmentally Focused Seminary Programs in the United States of America.