Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
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About Our Speakers

The Rev. Richard Cizik, President, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

The Rev. Cizik is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Presbyerian Church. Before a very public separation from the National Association of Evangelicals in 2008, after 28 years on its staff, the Rev. Richard Cizik was its Vice President for Governmental Affairs and one of the most prominent Evangelical lobbyists in the United States. Since 2003, the Rev. Cizik has been advocating for a type of environmentalism that he calls "creation care." His stance on the human role in global warming has drawn both support and criticism from fellow Evangelicals. In 2008, he and Nobel Prize winner Eric Chivian, as a team, were named one of the 100 most influential scientists and thinkers by Time Magazine. That recognition is only one of many honors reflecting the Rev. Cizik’s originality and importance as an advocate for Creation Care in the faith community and more broadly.

In January 2010, the Rev. Cizik launched the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good together with David P. Gushee, professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University, and Steve Martin, a pastor and documentary filmmaker. The faith-based non-profit exists "to advance human well-being as an expression of our love for Jesus Christ, which is itself a grateful response to his love for us and for a good but suffering world."

The Rev. Cizik graduated with a B.A., cum laude, in political science from Whitworth College, received an M.A. in Public Affairs from the George Washington University School of Public & International Affairs, and a Master of Divinity from Denver Seminary. The Rev. Cizik also serves on the Board of Advisors of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University.


John Seiler, Professor, Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Tech

John Seiler has been a member of the faculty at Virginia Tech in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation at Virginia Tech since 1985. His research interests include the effects of various environmental impacts on tree biology and growth. Along with his graduate students, Dr. Seiler has published over 90 refereed articles in this area.  Other areas of his research have included water stress, acid rain, ozone and elevated CO2 effects on forest trees.  His most recent research is investigating the role that managed tree ecosystems can play in sequestering atmospheric CO2. 

In addition, Dr. Seiler has developed numerous multimedia programs. He teaches an on-line course, Forest Ecology and Dendrology for Educators, which is designed for public school biology teachers to take during the summer months. In collaboration with his students, he has developed a smartphone app for Android and iPhones that has become the most widely downloaded tree identification app on the respective platforms (search for Virginia Tech Tree Identification at your app store). 

Dr. Seiler holds an endowed chair at Virginia Tech in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation named in honor of the Honorable and Mrs. Shelton H. Short, Jr. from Southside, Virginia. He has also been named a University Alumni Distinguished Professor. 

Dr, Seiler completed his education at The Pennsylvania State University (BS (1979), Forest Science; BS (1979), Environmental Resource Management; MS (1981) Forest Biology; and Virginia Tech (PhD. (1984)Tree Physiology.  Dr. Seiler lives with his wife and children in Christiansburg, Virginia.

 James Baird, Mid Atlantic Director, American Farmland Trust

As American Farmland Trust’s Mid Atlantic Director, Mr. Baird works with agricultural and conservation partners in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia to protect farmland, promote sound farming practices and sustain working farms. He coordinates American Farmland Trust’s Agriculture & Environment Chesapeake Bay program to help maintain viable farms and clean water by promoting adoption of conservation practices and ensuring that state, federal and nonprofit agencies are reflecting farmer concerns and constraints in policy and program discussions.

A staff member at American Farmland Trust since 2007, Mr. Baird also works to adopt national model farmland protection programs at state and county levels. He has helped agricultural groups work toward a common perspective on the Chesapeake Bay, and he built coalitions to support policy development for the 2008 and

Mr. Baird holds a B.A. from Middlebury College and an M.S. from the University of Maryland in program evaluation. He has worked as a Peace Corps volunteer, as the Africa program director for the Salvation Army World Services Office, as a consultant for the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and as director of sustainability education for the Izaak Walton League. He and his family are longtime members of the Takoma Park Community.

 Michael Rodemeyer, Lecturer, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia

Mr. Rodemeyer has worked for over 30 years in the fields of science, technology, and environmental policy. Currently, he teaches science and technology policy and directs the Policy Internship program at the University of Virginia’s Department of Science, Technology and Society in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. In 2009, he wrote New Life, Old Bottles, a study of the regulation of synthetic biology, for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. From 2000-2008, Mr. Rodemeyer was the Executive Director of the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, a nonprofit research and education project on agricultural biotechnology funded by a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Before that, Mr. Rodemeyer served as the Assistant Director for Environment in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Clinton administration and as Chief Democratic Counsel for the U.S. Congress House Committee on Science and Technology.  Mr. Rodemeyer graduated with honors from Harvard Law School in 1975 and received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University in 1972.  He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

 Tal Day, The Episcopal Church, Executive Council Committee on Science, Technology and Faith

Mr. Day is the chair of The Episcopal Church Executive Council subcommittee that is implementing a resolution adopted during the Church’s 77th General Convention concerning genetically modified crops.  In 2011, Mr. Day retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.  Prior to then, he had been involved in evaluating early forms of community-based policing, designing programs to promote building energy conservation, strategic planning for renewable resources development in the Department of Energy, and, as an attorney, representing lenders in a nationally scoped bankruptcy practice. As a member and Vice Chair of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia Committee on Stewardship of Creation, Mr. Day has restructured the Stewardship of Creation website and has started and contributed to its blog, http://caringforgodscreation.net/blog.  Mr. Day is a graduate of Cornell University (A.B.), the University of Hawaii (Ph.D., Political Science), and the University of Pennsylvania Law School (J.D).

Dave Finnigan, Climate Change is Elementary

Mr. Finnigan has been leading workshops on climate change in elementary and middle schools throughout North America since 2007. His Climate Change is Elementary™ program is a comprehensive program for youth empowerment that draws on his experiences and insights from an unusually distinctive career. The program objective is to help youth and their communities become more effective agents for planetary sustainability.

After earning a B.A. in Anthropology from Cornell University and an M.P.H. in Health Education from the University of California, Berkeley, Mr. Finnigan worked for 10 years in population and development planning in Asia before determining, in 1976, to become a professional juggler. From 1976 through 2005, Mr. Finnigan led workshops in his self-esteem and school self-esteem program, Juggling for Success™, in over 2000 elementary and middle schools in North America.

During fall 2013, Mr. Finnigan is leading workshops for schools in Montgomery County, Maryland. Dave has also led workshops to train others to deliver the Climate Change is Elementary program.

Dave Finnigan’s interactive DVD, Juggling Step by Step, a tutorial for teens and adults, is available on Amazon. He lives in Celebration, Florida.

 Marian Moody, Henrico/Caroline Soil and Water Conservation District

Marian Moody has been a Conservation Specialist with the Hanover-Caroline Soil and Water Conservation District for almost 14 years. Her responsibilities include development of District soil and water quality conservation plans, delivery of technical assistance to farmers implementing agricultural provisions of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act and local ordinances, and implementation of the Virginia Best Management Practice Cost Share Program, which furnishes financial assistance to farmers installing measures to control erosion and exclude livestock from streams.  Ms. Moody also serves on the Hanover County Committee of the Central Region Land Conservancy and is as well part of a state PDR (Purchase of Development Rights) Managers Group that meets quarterly to network about implementation of that farmland preservation program.

For 30 years, Ms. Moody and her husband managed a dairy farm that has been in the family for four generations.  Over the years, the Moodys implemented many of the conservation practices promoted by the District. They continue to work their farm, now raising Hereford beef cattle.

The farm is in its third year of transition to organic farming. During the six years since they ceased the use of commercial fertilizers and pesticides, the Moodys have seen immense changes in their farm as they have faced the challenges of managing their land without these chemicals.

To protect the farm against development, the Moodys granted a conservation easement six years ago, with the support of the next generation. As the mother of two daughters and the grandmother of two, Ms. Moody is proud of how supportive the children have been concerning decisions for the future of their family farm.

 Libby Norris, Watershed Restoration Scientist, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Ms.Norris is the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Virginia Watershed Restoration Scientist. As Restoration Scientist, her primary responsibility lies in identifying, designing, and installing wetland and riparian buffer restoration projects in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Her activities include working with farmers and landowners through outreach and education, coordinating conservation partners, and providing restoration expertise to CBF staff. She actively participates in and represents CBF during conferences and meetings relating to agriculture and serves on Virginia’s USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service State Technical Committee.

Prior to joining CBF, Ms. Norris was employed by the James River Association as its Riparian Lands Coordinator where she worked directly with landowners to install riparian buffer restoration projects.  Ms. Norris also served for five years as an Outreach and Education Coordinator with the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, where she coordinated the International “Becoming An Outdoors-Woman”® program in Virginia and taught at program workshops nationwide.  

Ms. Norris earned a M.S. in Biology from the University of Nebraska and a B.S. in Biology from Southeast Missouri State University.  At her home in James City County, Virginia, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, two young daughters and the family’s black Lab.

James Wesson, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences

Dr. Wesson is the head of the Conservation and Replenishment Department of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Working closely with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and others, Dr. Wesson has been involved for over 20 years in programs to replenish the Chesapeake Bay oyster populations that were devastated in the late 20th Century by disease and environmental degradation. Through his leadership, commercial shellfish aquaculture, which is regulated by the VMRC, is again becoming established in Virginia.  The shellfish gardening and farming initiatives supported by the Commission have been recognized by the U. S. Department of Agriculture for their positive impacts by removing nutrients and sediments from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.  

Before earning graduate degrees at Virginia Tech (B.S, M.S.) and the University of Wisconsin (Ph.D.) , Dr. Wesson worked the water as a crabber and was for four years president of the Working Waterman’s Association. In 1996, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation honored Dr. Wesson as Conservationist of the Year for his work. He lives in Gloucester, Virginia.

The Rev. Neal Halvorson-Taylor, McIlhaney Parish, Charlottesville, Virginia

The Rev. Neal Halvorson-Taylor is an ordained Lutheran minister. As a member of the clergy staff of St. Paul's Memorial Church, Charlottesville, and later at McIlhaney Parish, he directed two urban farm programs.  The fams furnish fresh vegetables to residents in highly urbanized, but underserved neighborhoods. He remains a senior advisor to Relay Foods, an online marketplace for groceries that provides farmers a direct means to sell their products.

The Rev. Halvorson-Taylor is known for his insightful and inspiring preaching on issues of justice. During his service with a church in in Massachusetts, he was an adjunct professor of preaching at the Harvard Divinity School. He is a graduate of Concordia College and Luther Seminary.