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C of E backs scheme to promote relationship between science and faith

20 March 2015


Big questions: the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, who is also an oceanographer, delivers the C. S. Lewis Legacy Lecture at St Mary Alderbury in the City of London, in February, last year. The subject of her lecture was "Who are we, Whence, Whither, and Why?" 

Big questions: the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, who is also an oceanograp...

A LEADERSHIP scheme backed by the Church of England has been given more than £700,000 to help bring scientists and Christians closer together.

The three-year scheme Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science has been given the donation by the Templeton World Charity Foundation. It includes grants to church communities of up to £10,000 for a new programme, "Scientists in Congregations", which will use the expertise of Christians who are scientists to promote greater understanding of the relationship between science and faith.

The donation will also fund a survey among leaders of faith organisations on their attitudes to science, and provide resources on contemporary science and the Christian faith for more than 1000 people training for Anglican ministry.

The project will be led by the Revd David Wilkinson, Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University, who is also an astrophysicist; Tom McLeish, Professor of Physics at Durham; and the Bishop of Kingston, Dr Richard Cheetham.

Professor Wilkinson said: "We felt that too often many church leaders see science as a threat, and lack confidence in engaging science with theology. There is also a great hunger among many lay people, who want to explore these big questions. We want to support and assist clergy and church leaders to address the kind of questions that are there, both inside and outside the Church.

"One of the interesting things about the culture in which we live is that we have bought into a conflict model of the relationship between science and Christian faith - that it is 'Bible against Science'. My own experience as a physicist, an astro-physicist, and now as a theologian, is that it is a much more fruitful and interesting conversation in many different areas.

"'What does it mean to be human?' is one of the big questions of our time. And then there are the questions, 'Where do we come from?' 'What's our origin?' 'What's our purpose?' These are the kind of questions that science, at the moment, is exploring, and often saying there's an open invitation to join in the discussion. But, sometimes, as church folk, we are not always there at the discussion table."

Dr Cheetham said that there was a view that religious beliefs were private, subjective opinions that could lead to a reactionary, divisive view of life; while science was seen as giving true, objective, and useful knowledge about the world.

"The widespread and pervasive caricature of the relationship between science and religion remains the conflict model," he said. "There is an urgent need for a much deeper understanding of the nature of Christian faith, and of science, and of their relationship and interaction.

"This is not simply a minority-interest activity for a few slightly nerdy specialists, but a matter which infuses the cultural air we breathe, and profoundly affects the credibility of the Christian faith and our ability to proclaim the gospel effectively in our generation."

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