For four days last April, the Ecumenical Roundtable on Science, Technology and the Church "played" Las Vegas. As an alternative to Caesar's Palace (reminiscent of Jesus's and Paul's day), Roundtable participants discussed how to be effective in helping Christians live faithfully within the choices offered by modern technological society.
The Episcopal Church was represented at the Roundtable by the ST&F Network Steering Board and the ST&F Committee, with members from 6 provinces of the church (see roster). The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada, joined the ST&F Committee meetings for a day. Bp. Katharine herself has dual training, both in oceanography and in theology.
The Committee, with several newly appointed members, addressed a challenging mandate from the 2003 General Convention. Its first priority is the design of a "web-based Resource Center" that is both attractive and useful to a wide range of Episcopalians. A brainstorming session produced a list of the most important topics to address (see article below, "The Living Church highlights ST&F Network mission).
The Creation Subcommittee produced a draft of its document called "A Catechism of Creation," which it has been working on for a year. This will become a centerpiece of the Resource Center. The subcommittee, chaired by Dr. Robert Schneider, received praise from everyone for producing what the Committee believes will fill a void in Christian education. This void has proven to be an unfortunate opportunity for creationism (in its several variations) to creep into Episcopalians' thinking, where it has not had a strong currency for several decades. (See the introduction to the Catechism by Dr. Schneider, below.)
The minutes of the ST&F Committee meetings can be accessed by clicking here.
The Network Steering Board considered strategies for raising the profile of the Network in order to attract new members. Among the ideas discussed was the possibility of becoming an institutional co-sponsor of the upcoming AAAS syposium on neuroethics, to be held at MIT. The Board voted to do this, and will make a contribution from its bank account. In addition to the brochures in English and Spanish, produced for the Minneapolis General Convention, the Board thought that it would be a good idea to have something more visible--like a poster--to take to meetings and conventions.
Following the discussion, the Nominating Committee presented a slate of officers and other Board members. The slate was voted in unanimously (see announcement below).
The outgoing Convener, Barbara Smith-Moran, presented the Episcopal delegation's "Report to the Roundtable. To read this Report, click here. To read the minutes of the Steering Board meeting, please contact the Records Secretary.
The Lutheran Church's Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology (ELCA) hosted the 2004 gathering at a family resort hotel off the main Strip. Being slightly distant from "Entertainment Central" made it easier to resist the multiple distractions from the committees' agendas. One morning, though, I used the hotel's business services office to get photocopies of the Order for Morning Prayer. The packet of copies was returned to me with 20 complimentary tickets to "The Only Daytime Topless Show in Town." I told the office manager, "But we're a church group." And she replied, "Oh, it's a very tasteful show." I took them back to our meeting room--and they were all snapped up after Morning Prayer, presumably for souvenir bookmarks.
The "star" of the show for the Las Vegas Roundtable was not Wayne Newton, but rather astrophysicist Stephen Lepp, from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. A specialist in atomic and molecular processes, Prof. Lepp gave an excellent banquet talk about the history of the cosmos. Using breathtaking pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, he talked about star formation in nearby regions of our Galaxy.
Sewanee [The University of the South] has received a $15,000 grant from the Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science to develop over a three-year period a series of programs that will examine the concerns, connections and conflicts of science and religion. This project is a threeway collaboration among the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Theology, and the Province of Sewanee Environmental Ministry of the Episcopal Church.
The Metanexus Institute is dedicated to education, research and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion. With special funding from the John Templeton Foundation, Metanexus has provided support for Local Societies Initiatives (LSI) that seek to encourage thoughtful and dynamic exploration of the interrelationship of science and religion, to promote greater appreciation of these issues and to enhance increased cooperation between science and religion.
The University's ENTREAT--Enter Now The Reflection, Education, Action Treatise--group is the newest LSI group and is one of 87 groups in 26 countries on six continents. ENTREAT programs will provide a method for examining the concerns, connections and conflicts of science and religion. All programs will examine the intersection of science, religion, and ethics.
Dr. Francis Hart, professor of physics, and Joyce Wilding, Province of Sewanee Environmental Ministry leader, will co-chair ENTREAT. Dr. Robert Hughes will represent the School of Theology. Faculty from the seminary and the biology, chemistry, economics and physics departments will comprise the ENTREAT core group and will host quarterly symposia and an annual conference.
[For details about this program's events, please contact Ms. Joyce Wilding. Ms. Wilding is a member of the ST&F Network Steering Board. She is featured "In the Spotlight" in the Ash Wednesday 2004 issue of the Network Newsletter.]
Sandra D. Michael, a deputy from the Diocese of Central New York, was bracing herself when she attended the discussion of General Convention's resolution concerning research on human stem cells.
A professor of biology at Binghamton University with a Ph.D. in genetics, Ms. Michael also serves as convener of the Episcopal Church Network for Science, Technology and Faith (STF). She said she was prepared in Minneapolis to stand up and offer an impassioned argument in favor of the measure supporting therapeutic stem cell research. She was delighted when she didn't have to.
"It was really gratifying to see that the Episcopal Church really is a thinking Church," she said. She found that the discussion was well researched, prayerfully argued, and in line with the recommendations of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Encouraging thoughtful and prayerful discussion of science and technology issues is a goal of the STF Network, the concept of which had its inception 15 years ago. About 120 members currently participate in the network, which is open to all Episcopalians interested in the interactions of Christian faith with science, technology, and medicine.
Network members come from many backgrounds, Ms. Michael said. "Most, but not all, have a degree in science or technology, and many members are ordained with a science background. But others don't have a science degree, yet have an interest in the history or philosophy of science. Some are parish priests, some are university faculty, and others work in government or the private sector."
She said growing network membership is a major goal for her in her role as the network's convener. "I consider the network to be one of the best-kept secrets of the Episcopal Church," she said with a laugh. "We particularly want to have high school and college-age youth and seminarians involved in our activities. We want all Episcopalians to understand that they don't need to check their faith at their office or laboratory door, nor check their science at the altar."
Members meet annually at the Ecumenical Roundtable on Science, Technology and the Church in the U.S. and Canada. The Roundtable is a meeting of Christian delegations interested in the science and faith dialogue. Between meetings, the network keeps its members informed and updated through its recently revamped website (www.episcopalchurch.org/science/) and a newsletter.
"We are gearing up to be a continuous resource to the Episcopal Church at all levels," Ms. Michael said. "We want the network to be more than a discussion among ourselves, and to be a resource for all individuals, as well as parishes, seminaries, and dioceses."
Among the issues the network will be tackling in the coming year are Creationism and its corollary, "Intelligent Design;" genetics issues such as genetically modified food, genetic engineering, and stem cell research; and environmental issues. The network also will be working with other organizations to hold a conference, titled "Our Brains and Us: Neuroethics, responsibility, and the Self," to be held next April at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Ms. Michael said that integrating her career and interest in science with her faith life as an Episcopalian is something she appreciates, but that many people shy away from making the connection. A big reason for this, she said, is that even within the majority of Christian denominations that have issued official statements that accept evolution science as being compatible with a faithful adherence to scripture, "a lot of people worry that if they are Christian, they cannot believe in evolution."
To address this concern, and many other ethical and moral issues that may be of interest to parish discussion groups, cell groups, and forums, the network is inviting persons with an interest in writing to submit articles for the network newsletter. Articles will be peer-reviewed and those accepted will appear on the network website and in its newsletter. A brain-storming session yielded many topics of interest, including
In this new feature, we invite our members to introduce themselves with short biographies. Please send your own bio-sketch to the Editor. We will include your email address unless you specify otherwise.
I teach undergraduate and graduate courses in genetics, reproduction, contemporary issues in the biomedical sciences, and health care in the 21st century. My main research interests are in the endocrine and immune system correlates of female reproduction. I am very active in my nine scientific societies, with current service on two editorial boards and two boards of directors. I am also very active in campus and SUNY-wide faculty governance, outreach, and development. I have been a visiting professor in Japan, England and Ireland, and was a Fulbright Senior Scholar to the Czech Republic in 1994.
I continue to be a frequent presenter at professional society meetings, and am author of over 100 publications in scientific journals. A major current focus is melding science and religion interests into my scholarly professional life. In 1999-2003 I served as a member of the advisory board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion. I was a recipient of four fellowships from the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, and of one National Science Foundation fellowship for creation-and-evolution dialogue.
A member of the ST&F Network since 2000, I am pleased to have been elected its Convener last April. One of my main goals in this role is to grow the membership of the Network. I have always said it's one of the best kept secrets within the Church. I also currently serve on the Executive Council's Committee on Science, Technology and Faith. In addition, I serve in a variety of capacities at the parish, diocesan, provincial, and national level. I was a deputy from the Central New York diocese to the last General Convention, where I served on the committee of the Church Pension Group. I am standing for election to the next General Convention in 2006.
Outside my interests in my scientific career and life of the Church, I am an avid skier, golfer, bridge player, and traveler. My penchant for travel probably arose from my childhood where my Air Force family moved every two to three years. I have achieved my goal to travel to all 50 states, and am now tackling the rest of the world. Another main interest is music, especially opera. I have been a long-term member of the board of directors of Tri-Cities Opera, a regional opera company with ties to my University through its master's degree in Opera.
My two Persian cats (Satsu and Kutani) and I can be reached by email at email@example.com.
[To learn more about the Network's new Convener and her views on science-and-religion interaction, see the July 2004 issue of Binghamton's research e-newsletter--click here.]
My current ministry involves a portfolio of work, paid and volunteer, salaried and freelance. I work part-time for the National Center for Science Education, where I am the Faith Network
Project Coordinator. My mandate is to identify, resource and support leaders of the faith communities who support the teaching of evolution in the public schools. I was recommended for this position because of my experience organizing on religious liberty issues in public
education in Southern California. But the great blessing has been in getting connected with various science and theology groups.
When in seminary in the early seventies I longed to
integrate my undergraduate learning with theology, but found few opportunities.
Most of my ministry, though, continues to involve consulting in local ministry development (variously called shared, total, mutual and baptismal ministry), encouraging adult learning and systemic change. I have been working on the educational aspects of Shared Ministry in my diocese, Northern California, and consult formally and informally with small congregations. I teach ministry development in the January term at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, work on continuing education strategies and programs, and facilitate conferences.
I hang my alb at Holy Family Church, Rohnert Park, where I am beginning a diaconal ministry in environmental concerns. It seems easier to apply my knowledge of evolution and theology to encouraging ecological action than it does to apply it to convincing church folk that change, in a changing context is a natural response to God's continual call!
Before moving to Sonoma County in 2000 I lived in Los Angeles, where I had served as diocesan missioner for Christian education from 1990-1995. From 1973-1989 I worked for the diocese of Nevada where I did a little bit of everything and a whole lot of local ministry development. I earned my M. Div. in 1974, and my A.B. in biology in 1968.
I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After getting my undergraduate degree in art history, I specialized in art conservation. Currently I serve as Director of Northern Light Studio, which is devoted to research, practice, and teaching in the area of historic painting techniques. I have experience in the conservation of sculpture, paintings, frescos, and rare books. For eleven years, I worked in the Physics Department at Washington University at St. Louis as research associate and Director of the Conservation Laboratory.
This line of work frequently takes me to Europe, where I have become a specialist in the painting techniques of Italian, Dutch and Flemish masters. In the picture below, I am teaching a class in the pigmentation used by Rembrandt.
In the early 1990s, I earned my M.Div. at Episcopal Divinity School, specializing in pastoral theology. That's where Barbara Smith-Moran and I first met, and we had many conversations about the interactions of science and religion, and their importance for the church. I became an early member of the ST&F Network back when it was known by a different name.
I've served as volunteer chaplain for the Juvenile Detention Centers in St. Louis, and I've also served as Director of Spiritual Formation at my parish. One of the courses I've taught is called "Seen and Unseen: Theology and the Visual Arts."
I can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Why not print out Science, Technology and Faith Network brochures for your parish or cathedral tract-rack. Help spread the word to those who wonder how Christian faith interacts with developments in science and technology. There is a real hunger among Episcopalians to be able to ask important questions about faithful living within contemporary society. The Network welcomes questioners.
The Network brochure is available both in Spanish and in English versions, as pdf files (Acrobat Reader required).