Religion, the Environment, and Capitalism

July 11-15, 2016

In the first of two creation stories in the Book of Genesis, God creates the world in six days and rests on the seventh (Gen 1:1-2:3). Unlike the second story however, which focuses on Adam and Eve’s relationship with God (Gen 2:4-3:24), the seven-day story is intended to highlight the majesty and power of God by showing how creation, in all of its complexity, has been ordered and set in place through His divine will.  Towards the end of the sixth day, God engages in His final act of creation: 

The Creation of Adam; Sistine Chapel; 16th century

‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ (Gen 1:26-28)

In Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Laudato Si, which presents a moral and ethical case for protecting and caring for the environment, his holiness not only suggests that Catholics have been remiss in their God-given role as the custodians of creation, but that all humans, no matter the race, gender or religious tradition, have a responsibility to protect and care for their home and one another: “The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious,” argues Pope Francis, “not only because God has entrusted the world to us men and women, but because human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement … our human ability to transform reality must proceed in line with God’s original gift of all that is” (Laudato Si - 5).  Accordingly, the topic for the 34th annual Spiritual Life Institute focuses on the environment and humanity’s responsibility to itself and the world.  Specifically, this summer’s program is a response to Pope Francis’ call for dialog and action: “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (Laudato Si - 5).

How to register

Students registering for academic credit or audit may use Self-Service to register for the course.

Continuing Education Credit and non-credit daily attendance registrants may print out and mail in the registration form here.


(Please note that tuition rates and fees are subject to change.  For the most up-to-date information about tuition rates, please contact the Office of Student Financial Services)

  • Academic credit

    RLS 494: Spiritual Life Institute (3 semester credits)
    Fee: $2,070

    Saint Martin's University undergraduates receive three semester credits for the successful completion of RLS 494, which satisfies the General Education Requirement for Religious Studies. The requirements for those wishing to receive three semester credits include: attending all lectures and presentations, reading the required texts, participating in discussions, authoring a daily journal, and submitting a 3,600–4,500 word research paper two weeks after the final meeting.

  • Audit

    RLS 094: Spiritual Life Institute (non-credit)
    Fee: Approximately one half of the regular tuition fee.

    For a reduced fee, students may attend the Institute without receiving academic credit. Students should inquire at the Office of Student Financial Services for an exact fee-auditing schedule.


  • Continuing Education Certificate

    CEC 080: Spiritual Life Institute (30 clock hour credits)
    Fee: $200

    Saint Martin's University invites those who are seeking continuing education credit to attend the Spiritual Life Institute for their own personal enrichment and spiritual growth. Participants are required to attend all lectures and presentations in order to receive their certificate of continuing education.

  • Daily Attendance Fee

    DAF 080: Spiritual Life Institute (non-credit)
    Fee: $40

    For those individuals who are unable to attend the Institute in its entirety, Saint Martin's University now offers a daily attendance fee. This non-credit attendance option enables those individuals with busy schedules or prior commitments to participate on a level that works for them. Simply select the number of days that you would like to attend the Institute, submit your payment in advance, and participate on the days that suit you best.

  • Housing

    On-campus living is encouraged as an important part of Spiritual Life Institute. Residence halls are located in a peaceful, forested setting. Please contact the University director of residence life at 360-438-4299/4546 in order to make reservations for University housing. Note: Housing fees are billed separately from the Spiritual Life Institute program tuition.

Faculty members

ROBERT BEISER is the Executive Director of Seattle Against Slavery, a coalition working to achieve a slave-free world one city at a time. After several years at Microsoft, he left the tech world to work in the nonprofit sector as a social justice advocate. Robert holds a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs from University of Washington, travels the country speaking on technology and human trafficking, and is chair of the Public Awareness Subcommittee of the Washington Statewide Task Force on Human Trafficking. For more information on his work, visit

ERIC BUGYIS earned his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Yale University. His research focuses on the intersection of modern religious thought and critical theory. He is particularly interested in contemporary constructions of “secular” and “religious” persons and publics, and the political and cultural mobilization of these categories in the service of both “conservative” and “progressive” ends. Before being hired as a professor of Religion at University of Washington, Tacoma in 2015, he taught as an adjunct instructor at the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Bugyis’ areas of specialization include the history of philosophy, Christian theology, Comparative Religion, modern forms of Religion, and the Philosophy of Religion.

SETH GOLDSTEIN has served at the rabbi of Temple Beth Hatfiloh in Olympia, Washington since 2003, upon ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. He also holds an MA in Jewish studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary. He was selected to be a member of the Rabbis Without Borders program through CLAL: The Center for Jewish Life and Learning, and was named as one of “10 under 40” by the JTNews. His also currently a board member of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association. Rabbi Seth is passionate about building community connections and relationships, creating meaningful Jewish experiences, facilitating Jewish exploration and learning, and bringing the Jewish voice to bear on issues facing our communities.

JOHN HOPKINS currently serves as the Associate Dean of Students/Director of Service & Diversity Initiatives in the department of Student Affairs of Saint Martin's University.  He sponsors service immersion programs that emphasize social justice education and advocacy; facilitates faculty and staff seminars that focus on multicultural education and critical pedagogy; and offers a variety of diversity-related workshops, trainings, and programs that support students and encourage dialogue.  Hopkins also teaches classes on the philosophy of education and communication, multicultural theory, and American Indian studies at Saint Martin’s University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 2015.

JESSICA JACKLEY is a cofounder of Kiva, the world's first peer-to-peer microlending website. Kiva lets internet users lend as little as $25 to individual entrepreneurs, providing them affordable capital to start or expand a small business. Since its founding in October 2005 Kiva has facilitated over $700 million dollars in loans among individuals across 216 countries. She currently teaches Social Entrepreneurship at the Marshall School of Business at USC. She also recently served as Walt Disney Imagineering's first Entrepreneur in Residence, focusing on projects related to corporate citizenship, the sharing economy, and happiness. From 2010-2012 Jessica served as a Visiting Practitioner at Stanford’s Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a 2011 World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader, and serves as an active board member or advisor for several nonprofit organizations including Habitat for Humanity. She holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, a certificate in Global Leadership and Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, a BA in Philosophy and Political Science from Bucknell University, and honorary PhDs from Centenary College and Quinnipiac University.

FATHER STEPHEN ROWAN is the acting Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Saint Martin’s University and the former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Portland. Father Rowan has served as the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Seattle, chairman of the Fulcrum Foundation in Seattle, director of deacon formation, and continuing formation of the clergy for the Archdiocese of Seattle, and a professor of English at Seattle University. He has also served as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Seattle University and as Interim President at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. Father Rowan received his bachelor's degree from Fairfield University, his S.T.B. from St. Mary's Seminary and University, and a master's and doctorate in English from the University of British Columbia. He is the author of four books and numerous articles on spirituality and Shakespeare.

SAMUEL THOMAS studied biology as an undergraduate and intended to go on to study medicine. While volunteering at L'Hopital Francais de St. Louis in Jerusalem after college, Dr. Thomas discovered what would become a lasting fascination with the origins of Judaism and Christianity in Mediterranean antiquity. Instead of medical school, he attended Yale University and Notre Dame University where he studied the histories, languages, theologies, cultures, and peoples that contributed to the formation of the texts and the traditions of ancient Judaism and Christianity. The author of many books and articles, he serves as editor for The Marginalia Review ( and the NEH-funded Bible Odyssey website (  Dr. Thomas is the founding faculty adviser of the California Lutheran University SEEd Project (Sustainable Edible Education), serves on the Faculty Steering Committee of the Center for Equality and Justice, and regularly teaches a course in Environmental Ethics.

IAN WERRETT is the Director of the Spiritual Life Institute and an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Saint Martin’s University. An expert on the Hebrew Scriptures, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Ancient Judaism, he has given lectures and presented conference papers in North America, Europe and Israel. He has worked in situ with the Dead Sea Scrolls in Jerusalem and is the author of a book entitled Ritual Purity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, which was published by Brill Academic Publishers in 2007. Werrett earned a BA from Saint Martin’s College in 1996, a MA from Trinity Western University in 2000 and a PhD in Biblical Studies and Second Temple Judaism from the University of St Andrews in 2006.