Monday, July 26, 2021

Reforesting Faith - A Book Review


Reforesting Faith by Matthew Sleeth


Reviewed by Rev. Bruce Gillette


Matthew Sleeth, MD, was a successful emergency room physician who used his gifts to save countless lives every day. He was respected by his medical colleagues and served as a chief of a hospital medical staff. Sleeth’s intelligence helped him to see the big picture relating to the ultimate threat to life, the Climate Crisis. He resigned from his medical work to answer a new call to teach, preach and write (including the introduction in the Green Bible). He serves as the executive director of Blessed Earth. As a thoughtful evangelical speaker, Dr. Sleeth has been in demand, speaking in over one thousand churches (several times at the Washington National Cathedral) and at college and seminary campuses, conferences and other events. I like his Earth Day 2021 interview for the Church of the Resurrection; this United Methodist church is the largest mainline congregation in the United States. You can find many of his talks online and they are easily adaptable for use in your church’s adult education programs.


Sleeth has written several books. His most recent one came from a conversation with a pastor who challenged him to do a “theology of treehugging.” Reforesting Faith: What Trees Teach Us About the Nature of God and His Love for Us is a result of that challenge. In a Christianity Today article, he summarizes his belief: “Trees are mentioned in the Bible more than any living thing other than God and people. There’s a tree on the first page of Genesis, the first Psalm, the first page of the New Testament, and the last page of Revelation… Trees are the oldest living things on earth. There are trees alive today that were already ancient in the time of Christ…. In many ways, trees are like Jesus. They give, and they keep giving. They give life and beauty. They give shade and rest. They clean the air. They hold back erosion. They offer shelter, food, and protection.”


The book is a wonderful overview of biblical stories with trees and the final section focused on Jesus. Sleeth sees God’s grace as the motivation for us to care for trees and all of creation.


Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, an Episcopal priest and founder of Interfaith Power & Light, praises the book, “The intrinsic and life-sustaining value of trees has long been neglected. Sleeth proves God’s love of trees and draws the reader into the realization that we need to not only reforest faith but also literally reforest our forests.”


Science journal reported in July 2019 that a global effort to plant trees could make a significant counter to Climate Crisis. While such efforts need to be done on a global scale, many are trying to do so throughout the world. Wangari Maathai, educated as a child by Presbyterians, was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her work for democracy and the environment. (Her Green Belt Movement has planted over 51 million trees.)  Sleeth’s book can be a popular resource to support the efforts among Christians. (Donate it to your church and public libraries.) Imagine if Presbyterians were known less for “predestination” and more for “reforestation.”



Bruce Gillette is pastor of the First Presbyterian Union Church in Owego, NY. The beautiful Susquehanna River one block from his home. He serves as the PEC Vice-President.

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