A £500,000 project to challenge the assumption that Christian
faith is incompatible with modern science has been launched in
The Scientists in Congregations venture, funded by the John
Templeton Foundation, is modelled on a similar project in North
America. It will be run by the School of Divinity at the University
of St Andrews, and hopes to foster dialogue rather than suspicion
between scientists and Christians.
About 20 churches of all denominations will receive grants of up
to £10,000, to be used in creating resources, lectures, and debates
that explore the relationship between faith and science. These will
primarily be led by scientists who attend each church. Among the
churches receiving grants, two are Episcopalian: St Peter's,
Edinburgh, and St Andrew's, St Andrews, as well as St Andrew's
Episcopal Cathedral in Aberdeen.
Professor Andrew Torrance from the School of Divinity at St
Andrews, who is leading Scientists in Congregations Scotland, said:
"There is not the same perceived tension [between science and
faith] in the UK as there might be in the United States, but I
still think we see a compartmentalisation in church. Christian
faith is seen as something that is to do with your ethical beliefs,
whereas science is engaged with the real world. We really want to
It is this perception that Professor Torrance hopes that the
individual church projects can address, and he said that he was
impressed with the ideas that they had come up with.
"There's a real diversity, and a diverse range of
denominations," he said. "Some are going to be developing lecture
series; some are looking to get their congregations involved in
various scientific activities; some are trying to bring science
into their liturgy."
One successful application for a grant was from three Christian
Brethren churches in western Scotland: Cartsbridge Evangelical
Church in Glasgow, Lennox Evangelical Church in Dumbarton, and
Westwoodhill Evangelical Church in East Kilbride. Professor David
Galloway, a consultant surgeon and a member of Lennox Evangelical
Church, who is involved in their joint project, said that the
interface of science and Christianity covered many of the issues
that arose for churchgoers.
"The question is: How can we be intellectually fulfilled these
days in a secular world where Christianity has been marginalised
because the assumption has been made that it is not a tenable
position to hold?" he said.
The aim of the project was to encourage churchgoers to believe
that Christianity could hold its head high on the intellectual
scene, without appealing to holy texts. "We want to have a
programme of seminars and debates and discussions, some hosted in
neutral locations, and involving not just the congregations, but
undergraduate students as well."
Some of the money will go to transporting people to lectures and
events in St Andrews.
Besides building the confidence of believers, Professor Torrance
said that Scientists in Congregations was an opportunity for
mission. "There are people outside the faith who think that they
have to make a choice between science and faith," he said: success
in the project would mean making the Church a place of serious