The Episcopal Church Network for Science, Technology & Faith

NEWSLETTER

Vol. 3-2, St Luke 2004 (18 October 2004)




Network & Committee headline in Las Vegas

by Barbara Smith-Moran, S.O.Sc.

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.

Above, members of the ST&F Network Steering Board and the ST&F Committee in Las Vegas. Front row, L to R: Bob Schneider (Committee Co-chair, Network Steering Board ex officio member), Peter Arvedson (Network Membership Secretary), Tony Jewiss (Staffperson from the General Convention Office); middle row, Jim Jordan (Network Steering Board ex officio member, Committee), Phina Borgeson (Network's Seminary Liaison), Norm Faramelli (Committee), Paul Julienne (Committee), Johnnie Ross (Committee), Neil James (Committee), Stephen Stray (Committee); back row, Sandra Michael (Network Convener), Barbara Smith-Moran (Committee Co-chair, Network Records Secretary), Susan Youmans (Network Graphics Designer). Missing, Committee members Tom Lindell and John Miers. [Photo credit, Peter Arvedson]

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Newly elected Network Steering Board announced

At its meeting in Las Vegas last April, the Network Steering Board held its trienniel elections, with the following results:
Congratulations! And many thanks to those Board members who served in the previous triennium!


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Network and Committee--How are they related?

To see an organizational diagram for how the Network, its Steering Board, the Committee and the General Convention are related, click here.


Sewanee wins 3-year grant for science-and-religion programs

Collaborative grant award focuses on religion and science

[This article originally appeared in From the Mountain, a publication of The School of Theology, University of the South, Summer 2004 issue. Reprinted with permission.]

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.]


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The Living Church highlights ST&F Network mission

[The following article was first published in The Living Church magazine, 15 August 2004. (c) 2004 The Living Church Foundation, Inc. Reprinted by permission of The Living Church.]

Prayerful Forum: Network Aims to Connect Science and Faith in Everyday Life

by Michael O'Laughlin

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

  • Stereotypes about science-and-religion interactions
  • Transhumanism and bionics: what does it mean to be human?
  • Guidance in thinking about therapeutic cloning
  • Updates on HIV/AIDS
  • Evil and suffering
  • Global warming
  • Prayer and health
  • Life as a commodity, e.g., patenting of life-forms, and the sale of organs and tissues

  • Those interested in submitting papers may contact Ms. Michael by email at smichael@binghamton.edu or by phone at 607-777-6517.

    A newsletter subscription of $10 annually (or more, as a tax-deductible donation) may be sent to the network's membership secretary, the Rev. Peter Arvedson. Full details on becoming a member of the STF Network, including a downloadable registration form are available on the network website.


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    "A Catechism of Creation"--an introduction to what's coming soon

    by Robert Schneider

    Episcopalians will soon have access via the ECUSA web site to "A Catechism of Creation: An Episcopal Understanding Prepared by the Committee on Science, Technology and Faith for Study in Congregations." Written in the traditional question-and-answer format, but with longer answers than those found in the Prayer Book's "An Outline of the Faith," the catechism will provide a foundation for a more extensive study of theology of creation and of the relationship of modern science to Christian faith.

    The Catechism is composed of three sections. The first, "Theology of Creation," presents an extended look at the biblical elements of our doctrine of creation and concludes with basic themes developed by early Church theologians. Part two, "Creation and Science," outlines the basics features of the modern scientific world picture, i.e., big bang cosmology and the evolution of life, looks at contemporary theologies of an evolving creation, and responds to challenges to the evolutionary paradigm posed by young earth creationism and the "intelligent design" movement. The final section, "Caring for Creation," presents the biblical roots of creation care, summarizes the threats to earth's environment, and suggests ways that individual Christians and congregations might carry out our divine commission to care for the creation in the light of these challenges.

    Each section is followed by an extensive and up-to-date bibliography of relevant printed and electronic resources. Eventually, the on-line version of the Catechism will include annotations to the bibliographies and links to useful articles, some to be written by members of the Committee, that will serve as resources for Christian education directors and teachers who might use the Catechism for adult and young adult education in congregations.

    This new Catechism is the product of several months of writing and editing by a subcommittee of the Committee on Science, Technology and Faith. The full Committee reviewed it and contributed to its final form. It was received with appreciation by the leadership of General Convention, and the Presiding Bishop has given the Committee the green light to put it on the Church's web site. It may come out later in a printed version.

    The Committee on Science, Technology and Faith is pleased to offer the Catechism of Creation as part of its ministry of education to the Church.

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    In the Spotlight: Some Network members take a bow

    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.

  • Dr. Sandra Michael, geneticist/endocrinologist, Binghamton University (SUNY)

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  • Deacon Phina Borgeson, science educator, faith-and-science networker, Oakland, California

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  • Ms. Phoebe Dent Weil, art conservator, St. Louis, Missouri




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    Downloadable Network fliers in both Spanish and English

    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).


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    Past issues of the Newsletter:
    Vol. 1-1, All Saints 2001
    Vol. 1-2, Epiphany 2002
    Vol. 1-3, Trinity 2002
    Vol. 2-1, New Year 2003
    Vol. 2-2, Sts Peter & Paul 2003
    Vol. 2-3, Christmas 2003
    Vol. 3-1, Ash Wednesday 2004



    All Network Newsletter materials may be reproduced with proper attribution.
    Revised: 19 October 2004
    Send comments and news items to the Network Newsletter editor, The Rev. Dr. J. John Keggi, S.O.Sc.
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