Seminary defends confessing sins to plants: ‘Beautiful, moving ritual’

But critic says experience embraces ‘a form of pantheism’ 

Students at a seminary in New York City recently confessed their sins to plants during a chapel service, an experience that drew nationwide ridicule but that a campus spokesman defended as a “beautiful, moving ritual” in a statement to The College Fix.

On Tuesday, Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan shared on its Twitter account a photo of a group of students speaking to an arrangement of house plants. “Today in chapel, we confessed to plants. Together, we held our grief, joy, regret, hope, guilt and sorrow in prayer; offering them to the beings who sustain us but whose gift we too often fail to honor. What do you confess to the plants in your life?” the tweet read.

‘Plants…are not persons’

Jeff Walton, the Anglican Program Director at the Institute on Religion & Democracy—a Christian advocacy group that works to “reaffirm the church’s biblical and historical teachings” and “strengthen and reform its role in public life”— said that though the seminarians are “well-intentioned in their effort to live alongside the natural world,” the plant confessional itself was “absurd.”

“Plants cannot hear nor can they provide absolution. Environmental transgressions could be regarded as offenses against God and our descendants, but not to the plants themselves, which are not persons,” he told The Fix via email.

“I’m receptive to general revelation – a concept that the natural world testifies to the existence of God. But Union is embracing a form of pantheism. If the seminary was specifically Christian, it would point people to Jesus Christ rather than to the houseplant aisle at Home Depot,” Walton added.