Revisiting the Stewardship Concept: Faith-Based Opportunities to Bridge from Principles to Practice
William F. Siemer and Gregory E. Hitzhusen
Abstract.—Contemporary definitions of aquatic resource stewardship are a specific expression of ethical themes that humankind has wrestled with for millennia. The foundations for a stewardship ethic can be secular or spiritual. Other chapter contributors discuss a range of the secular foundations (e.g., fishing, boating); we discuss the implications of stewardship ethics rooted in religious traditions. Some fisheries professionals recognize religious–cultural influences on aquatic stewardship, such as those seen in Native American or Asian immigrant communities. But fisheries professionals have commonly ignored mainline Judeo-Christian faith traditions as an ethical basis for aquatic stewardship behavior, despite the fact that those traditions inform ethical development for large numbers of people in North America and that denominations within those traditions have increasingly engaged in stewardship-based environmental education and advocacy. The proposition that religious values often form the basis for a stewardship ethic presents several challenges for fisheries professionals striving to foster stewardship behavior. However, a basic understanding of these religious foundations could contribute to an improved practice of stewardship education, through outreach to a new constituency—faith communities. To illustrate this point, we briefly summarize some of the sources for stewardship found in the biblical corpus. We offer three examples of how Christian stewardship principles are manifest in aquatic stewardship programs delivered by faith communities. Models of partnership between natural resource managers and local faith communities are emerging across North America. In revisiting the ethical bases of stewardship and identifying new opportunities for stewardship education partnerships, we hope to demonstrate one more means by which fisheries professionals can bridge from stewardship education in principle to an effective practice of stewardship education.