Episcopalians now have access via the Episcopal Church website to "A Catechism of Creation: An Episcopal Understanding," prepared by the Committee on Science, Technology and Faith for use in congregational study. This document has been much anticipated by Episcopalians seeking a better understanding of God's creative activity. The Catechism also offers guidance in analyzing the claims of Intelligent Design to be a scientific alternative to evolution.
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 basic 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 two years 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 the General Convention, and the Presiding Bishop gave the green light to include it on the Episcopal Church's website. There is a printer-friendly version.
The Committee on Science, Technology and Faith is pleased to offer "A Catechism of Creation" as part of its ministry of education to the Episcopal Church.
[Bob spent the fall term, 2004, in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, with his wife Maria Lichtmann, who was a Fulbright Scholar at the Faculty of Islamic Studies.]
December 22, 2004. During December, I was given the opportunity to deliver two lectures in Sarajevo on the relationship between religion and science. The first, "Theological Perspectives on an Evolving Creation," was given at the Franciscan School of Theology to a philosophy class taught by Fr. Mile Babic. It surveyed recent developments in theology of creation in light of the modern evolutionary world-picture. A very able young Franciscan standing at my side translated the English lecture sentence by sentence into Bosnian. The method proved to be somewhat awkward and extended the length of the presentation, leaving very little time for discussion. Still, I was glad to have this opportunity to introduce students to recent developments that integrate Christian creation theology with an evolutionary world-view.
Shortly afterwards one of my colleagues at the Faculty of Islamic Studies (FIN), Ahmet Alibasic, asked if I would prepare a lecture on the relationship between religion and science for the Association of Scholars of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). As we discussed the audience and the topic, we decided that I could do a real service to teachers and imams in the public schools, medressas, and mosques if I sorted out the sometimes-confusing terminology of science, evolution, creation, creationism, and so forth. I prepared a lecture, and, to avoid the awkwardness of on-the-spot translation, another scholar, Aid Smajic, prepared a version in Bosnian.
Today we presented the lecture to an audience at FIN that included not only members of the Association from Sarajevo and central Bosnia, but also students and teachers from the faculties of Philosophy and Natural Science in the University of Sarajevo. Ahmet introduced me, I said a few words about the lecture, and then Ahmet read the Bosnian translation: "Evolution or Evolutionism, Creation or Creationism? Distinguishing the Terminology of Science from Ideology."
The topic was timely, as some discussion pitting creation and evolution in conflict was already appearing in the popular press here, prompted by writings of a Turkish (Islamic) creationist named Harun Yahya. To help clarify the issues, I drew distinctions between the concepts of science and theology and those of ideological belief systems. I briefly summarized the modern scientific world-view and challenges to it from American forms of creationism, namely young earth creationism and "intelligent design." I noted that both forms have been criticized by the great majority in the scientific community on scientific grounds, while many Christian theologians have faulted them for improperly mixing science and religion together and subordinating or challenging scientific knowledge on the basis of religious ideology.
Next, I described in detail the differences between "science" and "evolution" on the one hand, and "scientism" and "evolutionism" on the other--explaining that the latter are belief systems rather than science. I also argued that "Darwinism" is not a correct term to apply to the science of evolution. Then I explained the difference between "creationism," which is an ideology about origins, and "creation," which is a theological concept about God's relationship with the universe as God's creation. Since science and theology address different questions about the world, I concluded, one does not have to choose between evolution and creation (as American creationists and Harun Yahya claim). They are not in conflict with each other, but can fit together in a religious understanding of the world.
A forty-five minute discussion followed my lecture, and the length was not simply a measure of the time it took to translate from Bosnian into English and vice versa. The lecture evoked genuine concerns, and the content and tenor of the questions revealed how much confusion exists here over what the scientific theory of evolution really is, identical to the confusion often encountered in American audiences.
At the end of the discussion, to my surprise, one of the elders in the front row, the deputy to the "Reisu-l-ulema" (Leader of the Islamic Community of BiH) presented me with a framed commemorative announcement. My lecture was the 14th in a series.
I was grateful for the opportunity to lecture to this audience on a topic personally important to me, and delighted with the discussion that followed. I was also very pleased to learn that the Bosnian translation, with a summary in English and Arabic, is being published in a quarterly journal read by teachers, Novi Muallim." I hope that the printed version will contribute to the discussion here beyond the original presentation. I am very grateful to Ahmet for arranging this lecture and to Aid for his translation.
After a couple of weeks of controversy over whether it was appropriate to allow such an event on the premisis (see Boston Globe article), the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics allowed a talk by Anglican priest and physicist Sir John Polkinghorne to go forward. The event was organized by the Roundtable on Science, Art and Religion, chaired by Harvard astronomer Owen Gingerich.
The Roundtable is dedicated to fostering dialogue among scholars to explore the intersection of contemporary academic thought and Christian thought on issues related to science, art and religion. When faculty engage in roundtable discussion, the experience has the potential to bring added depth to their work as scholars and educators. Participants in the roundtable discussion were not necessarily aligned with any particular religious or non-religious perspective. Each of the 50 invited participants was supplied in advance with excerpts from Sir John's new book, Science and the Trinity (Yale, 2004). After brief remarks by Sir John, participants were seated for dinner and discussion at round tables with six people apiece. During dessert, questions, answers and opinions were voiced around the room in a wide-ranging discussion moderated by David Thom.
Sir John is known for his elegant and persuasive speaking and writing style. From his opening remarks, the following "nuggets" were gathered:
An effort was made not to have all questions directed to and answered by Sir John. Moderator David Thom, a chaplain at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, kept encouraging the discussion to be more participatory. However, Sir John was the "celebrity," and his positions were clearly the ones that people most wanted to hear. Things changed when one man remarked that he could easily understand why people would want to discuss the relationships between religion and the arts, but that he couldn't really understand what science and religion have to do with each other. The discussion really opened up at that point, in the way envisioned by the Roundtable planners. All facets of culture interact with each other, and it would be impossible for religion to be insulated from the effects of science, and vice versa.
For this 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.
My work at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Duluth began almost 25 years ago; currently I am professor of Family Medicine and Behavioral Sciences, and Faculty Associate in the Center for Bioethics for the University of Minnesota. My research merges University and community efforts to expand health care access for those who do not have it. This work has included, among others, tribal groups, battered women, teen parents, patients with dementia and their families, and homeless youth.
Medical ethics is the primary focus of my teaching and service. I enjoy working with students as we grapple together with when, how and why to extend certain medicines, devices and other medical interventions to people—and that patients can refuse what is offered! The real purpose of my teaching in this area is to assure that physicians reflect on the power of their role and the science, recognizing their own motivations and respecting the stories of those they meet and serve. I also chair a hospital ethics committee and serve as an ethics consultant for several other hospitals and health systems.
In the last four years I have completed four units of CPE and become employed as an on-call hospital chaplain (in addition to my University work). The chaplaincy work continues to challenge me. Each time I encounter the authentic moments of mystery, suffering, and celebration with patients and families, I reflect again on the importance of the question, "What is God teaching me now?"
The chaplaincy training and work have also allowed me to develop and teach an elective course in the medical school, "Spirituality and Health Care." A cohort of ten students take the course which requires a combination of ten classroom hours and a call shift with me in the hospital. It is great learning for all of us.
My education includes degrees in German, international relations, education, psychology, family sociology, and medical sociology. In addition, I have had a fellowship in leadership training through the Kellogg Foundation, been a visiting scholar at the Hastings Center, and worked and studied internationally with focus on issues of social justice.
My church home is St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Duluth, MN, where I have been a member since 1978. I have been active in parish, diocesan and national church efforts.
I can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Above, Barbara Elliott
My work addresses problems and opportunities in facilitating dialogue that addresses ethically and theologically complex applications of science and technology in today's world. I'm especially interested in the mechanics of efforts to include several disciplines and kinds of expertise, and believe they can help reduce the number of times the same conflicts emerge.
I have helped establish a voice on science and faith in the Episcopal Church since the early nineties. As a seminarian I interviewed MIT faculty about responsibilities that follow from having knowledge power. I co-produced the 1996 religion-and-science video, Living in Nature: Religion and Science in dialogue to Envision Equity. A member of ECUSA's Committee on Science, Technology and Faith since 1996, I've spearheaded projects and worked ecumenically on genetically modified food and "food security," and have developed materials on "A Catechism of Creation" (see article above) for parishes. Professional/board memberships include American Public Health Association's Caucus on Public Health and the Faith Community (past); Childhood Cancer Research Institute, a pioneer in teaming health professionals and community members (past); Community Food Security Coalition's Food and Faith Committee; and Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts Jubilee Committee.
To involve churches in empowerment and community building fostered by collaboration across disciplinary, lay-expert, and organizational boundaries, I work on environmental justice and urban community gardens in eastern Massachusetts. I direct a nonprofit, Environmental Partnerships, which has developed projects across denominational, faith/secular, and urban/suburban lines directed at asthma prevention, indoor air quality, brownfields, community supported agriculture, community service learning for teens, and Christian adult education.
I chaired the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts Committee on Faith and Environment from 1997 through 2004. From 1976 to 1985 I developed, sold and managed cases and worked on multidisciplinary case teams at Arthur D. Little, Inc. Clients included U.S. and international government agencies, non-profits and corporations concerned with information policy, library service, publishing, oil drilling, computer services, financial services, telecommunications and education. From 1968 and 1974 I was a reference librarian at Seattle Public Library and Director of Libraries at a Washington State institution for 2500 mentally retarded residents.
My education includes master's degrees from Episcopal Divinity School (1996), the Wharton School (1976), and the University of Chicago (1970) and an A.B. in English Literature (Later Middle Ages and Early Renaissance) from Bryn Mawr College.
I can be reached by email at EOSystems@aol.com.
I married my wife (of 22 years), Beth, and began graduate studies in geochemistry at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado in 1982. My M.Sc. degree included isotopic and trace-element studies of rocks from the Laramie Range, Wyoming. My Ph.D. degree (Geochemistry) included studies of some of the world's oldest rocks in Labrador, northeastern Canada; where I spent a glorious summer collecting rocks among the Inuit. Upon graduation (1990), our first daughter arrived, and within ten days I was beginning my nine-year tenure as a Research Professor at the University of Tennessee. Opportunities in Tennessee included analyzing radiogenic isotopes and trace-elements in lunar rocks (from all six manned American missions, and Russian returned-sample missions), meteorites, inclusions in diamonds from Siberia, and platinum deposits from the Kola peninsula; publishing over 70 peer-reviewed papers; meeting many of the men who have walked on the Moon; and travel throughout Russia and South Africa, and to the Gregorian University in Rome (including a papal audience) to present a paper. Our second daughter was born in 1993. It was while I was at the University of Tennessee that I felt the call to holy orders, and was ordained in South Carolina as a deacon, and then priest in December of 2002.
My ongoing research interests include planetary geology, and Anglican theology and its relationship to science, especially through the published work of Anglo-Catholic theologian Eric Lionel Mascall (who died in 1993). I continue to review books on theology and the sciences for The Churchman, Science & Theology News, and Anglican Theologial Review. I am the Associate Rector at St. John's Episcopal Parish, Johns Island, S.C.
I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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).