The Episcopal Church Network for Science, Technology & Faith Newsletter
Vol. 4-3 Feast of Christ the King 20 November, 2005


Contents
Geneticist-priest Eric Beresford gives environmental report to ACC
ACC environmental resolutions urge changes in liturgy, seminaries, advocacy
Bishop Sims: "Science & religion distinguishable but inseparable"
Now in Braille: A Catechism of Creation
Nashville Cathedral program: Why Church needs S&R programs
Iowa City parish holds forum on stem cells
Season of Creation in Delaware parish
Engineer preaches on science & religion
In the Spotlight: Some Network members take a bow
Robert Garrett
Claire Lofgren
Darrell Huddleston
Jim Jordan
Downloadable Network fliers in English and Spanish
Previous Newsletter Issues


Geneticist-priest Eric Beresford gives environmental report to ACC

The 13th triennial meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) was convened at the University of Nottingham, England, on 19-28 June. Delegations addressed a comprehensive agenda of global issues, including environmental issues. The Rev. Canon Eric Beresford, a geneticist-priest and Convener of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN), delivered a report from the ACEN, which had met in April in Canberra.

The report declares, "It is clear from the reports of the represented Provinces, and the presentations of the scientists who spoke during the conference that humanity has failed to fulfil God's will for creation. The earth and everything therein now face perilous and catastrophic environmental destruction, often as a result of human activities. The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that our continued failure to protect the earth and to resolve economic injustices within and between societies will lead not only to environmental collapse but also to social collapse."

Addressing the ACC delegates, Canon Beresford added, "Justice and equity cannot be pursued effectively in a deteriorating environmental situation. This is a matter that effects all of us in a variety of way. It is also, I'm afraid, a reality that the greatest contributors to global climate change are not the greatest victims of global climate change. So, there is a disparity in the experience."

The report highlights the sealevel rise in the Pacific, the widening range of tropical disease vectors, the melting of glaciers and tundras, and the increasing variability of climate and its effect upon fragile ecosystems.

The report urges all Anglicans to:

  • recognise that global climatic change is real and that we are contributing to the despoiling of creation.
  • commend initiatives that address the moral transformation needed for environmentally sustainable economic practices such as the Contraction and Convergence process championed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • understand that, for the sake of future generations and the good of God's creation, those of us in the rich nations need to be ready to make sacrifices in the level of comfort and luxury we have come to enjoy.
  • expect mission, vision and value statements to contain commitment to environmental responsibility at all levels of church activity.
  • educate all church members about the Christian mandate to care for creation.
  • work on these issues ecumenically and with all faith communities and people of good will everywhere.
  • ensure that the voices of women, indigenous peoples and youth are heard.
  • press government, industry and civil society on the moral imperative of taking practical steps towards building sustainable communities.
The report urges the provinces of the Communion to take 7 steps--all legislated by the ACC (see report below). The ACEN report in its entirety may be found at http://www.aco.org/ethics_technology/ACENstatementMay05.cfm.

Canon Beresford is a friend and supporter of the Network for ST&F. In past years, he has attended the Ecumenical Roundtable on Science, Technology & the Church, representing the Anglican Church of Canada. He is President of Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A 3-minute Episcopal News Service video of an interview with Canon Beresford at the ACC may be accessed with RealPlayer at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_62543_ENG_HTM.htm.

The role of the ACC is to facilitate the cooperative work of the churches of the Anglican Communion, exchange information among the 38 Provinces and churches, and help to coordinate common action. It advises on the organization and structures of the Communion, and seeks to develop common policies with respect to the world mission of the Church, including ecumenical matters.


ACC environmental resolutions urge changes in liturgy, seminaries, advocacy
The Anglican Consultative Council, meeting in Nottingham, England, last June, endorsed the report of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN). In Resolution 32, the body adopted the recommendations of the ACEN, and urges the Provinces of the Anglican Communion to take the following steps:
  • Include environmental education as an integral part of all theological training.
  • Take targeted and specific actions to assess and reduce our environmental footprint, particularly greenhouse gas emissions. Such actions could include energy and resource audits, land management, just trading and purchasing, socially and ethically responsible investment.
  • Promote and commit ourselves to use renewable energy wherever possible.
  • Revise our liturgies and our calendar and lectionaries in ways that more fully reflect the role and work of God as Creator.
  • Press for urgent initiation of discussions, which should include all nations, leading to a just and effective development beyond the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Support the work of the World Council of Churches Climate Change Action Group.
  • Bring before governments the imperative to use all means, including legislation and removal of subsidies, to reduce greenhouse gases.

Bishop Sims: "Science & religion distinguishable but inseparable"
[When he was Bishop of Atlanta, the Rt. Rev. Bennett J. Sims wrote this pastoral statement on "Creation and Evolution." As background to this reprinting, Bp. Sims says, "The public prompting for the pastoral in 1981 was pressure from Southern Baptist quarters to pass fundamentalist legislation before the Georgia Legislature that would require the publicly financed schools in Georgia to teach so-called 'Scientific Creationism' along with Evolution as the mechanism for the earth's development."]

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Legislation is pending before the Georgia State Legislature which calls for the public financing and teaching of Scientific Creationism as a counter-understanding to Evolution, wherever the evolutionary view is taught in the public schools.

Scientific Creationism understands the cosmos and the world to have originated as the Bible describes the process in the opening chapters of Genesis.

The 74th Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta, in formal action on January 31, 1981, acted without a dissenting vote to oppose by resolution any action by the Georgia Legislature to impose the teaching of Scientific Creationism on the public school system. A copy of the resolution is attached to this Pastoral.

It seems important that the Episcopal Church in this diocese add to its brief resolution a statement of its own teaching. The office of Bishop is historically a teaching office, and I believe it is timely to offer instruction as to this Church's understanding of what has become a contested public issue.

To begin with creation is a fact. The world exists. We exist. Evolution is a theory. As a theory, evolution expresses human response to the fact of creation, since existence raises questions: how did creation come to be, and why?

The question of why is the deeper one. It takes us into the realm of value and purpose. This urgent inquiry is expressed in human history through religion and statements of faith. Christians cherish the Bible as the source book of appropriating the point and purpose of life. We regard the Bible as the Word of God, His revelation of Himself, the meaning of His work and the place of humanity in it.

The question of how is secondary, because human life has been lived heroically and to high purpose with the most primitive knowledge of the how of creation. Exploration of this secondary question is the work of science. Despite enormous scientific achievement, humanity continues to live with large uncertainty. Science, advancing on the question of how, will always raise as many questions as it answers. The stars of the exterior heavens beyond us and the subatomic structure of the interior deep beneath us beckon research as never before.

Religion and science are therefore distinguishable, but in some sense inseparable, because each is an enterprise, more or less, of every human being who asks why and how in dealing with existence. Religion and science interrelate as land and water, which are clearly not the same but need each other, since the land is the basin for all the waters of the earth and yet without the waters the land would be barren of the life inherent to its soil.

In the Bible the intermingling of why and how is evident, especially in the opening chapters of Genesis. There the majestic statements of God's action, its value and the place of humanity in it, use an orderly and sequential statement of method. The why of the divine work is carried in a primitive description of how the work was done.

But even here the distinction between religion and science is clear. In Genesis there is not one creation statement but two. They agree as to why and who, but are quite different as to how and when. The statements are set forth in tandem, chapter one of Genesis using one description of method and chapter two another. According to the first, humanity was created, male and female, after the creation of plants and animals. According to the second, man was created first, then the trees, the animals and finally the woman and not from the earth as in the first account, but from the rib of the man. Textual research shows that these two accounts are from two distinct eras, the first later in history, the second earlier.

From this evidence, internal to the very text of the Bible, we draw two conclusions. First, God's revelation of purpose is the overarching constant. The creation is not accidental, aimless, devoid of feeling. Creation is the work of an orderly, purposeful Goodness. Beneath and around the cosmos are the everlasting arms. Touching the cosmos at every point of its advance, in depth and height, is a sovereign beauty and tenderness. Humanity is brooded over by an invincible Love that values the whole of the world as very good; that is the first deduction: God is constant.

Second, creation itself and the human factors are inconstant. Creation moves and changes. Human understanding moves and changes. Evolution as a contemporary description of the how of creation is anticipated in its newness by the very fluidity of the biblical text by the Bible's use of two distinct statements of human comprehension at the time of writing. As a theoretical deduction from the most careful and massive observation of the creation, the layers and deposits and undulations of this ever-changing old earth, evolution is itself a fluid perception. It raises as many questions as it answers. Evolution represents the best formulation of the knowledge that creation has disclosed to us, but it is the latest word from science, not the last.

If the world is not God's, the most eloquent or belligerent arguments will not make it so. If it is God's world, and this is the first declaration of our creed, then faith has no fear of anything the world itself reveals to the searching eye of science.

Insistence upon dated and partially contradictory statements of how as conditions for true belief in the why of creation cannot qualify either as faithful religion or as intelligent science. Neither evolution over an immensity of time nor the work done in a six-day week are articles of the creeds. It is a symptom of fearful and unsound religion to contend with one another as if they were. Historic creedal Christianity joyfully insists on God as sovereign and frees the human spirit to trust and seek that sovereignty in a world full of surprises.


Now in Braille: A Catechism of Creation
The Steering Board of the ST&F Network announces that it is making Braille transcription of A Catechism of Creation: An Episcopal Understanding available to anyone who needs one. This document was commended by the Executive Council, at its meeting last June, "for study in parish education and faith formation classes, Episcopal schools, diocesan and parish workshops, vacation Bible programs, summer camps, retreats, and other programs." The Braille booklet is available now and may be ordered for $3, the cost of shipping. To order a copy, contact Network member John Miers by email, or by post at:
    5510 Huntington Pkwy, Bethesda, MD 20814.
Copies will be made available at the 2006 General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, next July.

John Miers suggested this project to the Steering Board, in order to make A Catechism of Creation more widely available. He also serves on the Executive Council's ST&F Committee and has just retired as Senior Advisor for Disability Issues at the National Institute of Mental Health. He was featured "In the Spotlight" of the last issue of this Newsletter, (Feast of St. Aidan, August 2005).


Nashville Cathedral Forum: Why Church needs S&R programs
On Sunday morning, 13 November, ST&F Network Steering Board member Joyce Wilding led the introductory session of a three-part Dean's Forum at Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville, Tennessee. The series is planned to provide information about how science-and-religion dialogue can help Episcopalians with many ethical issues surrounding origin of life conflicts (beliefs about Intelligent Design, Creationism and Evolution), environmental justice, and care for all creation.

The next session will be on 8 January, 2006. ST&F Network Board Member Dr. Robert Schneider will talk about A Catechism of Creation, of which he is the principal author. He will talk about how this document addresses origin-of-life issues and the care of all creation. Dr. Schneider co-chairs the Executive Council's Committee on ST&F,

The third session will be in May of 2006 (TBA). Ms. Wilding will present highlights and lead a discussion of the Province IV "Pastoral Letter on the Care of Creation."


Iowa City parish holds forum on stem cells
    report by Dr. Robert Garret, M.D., who is featured "In the Spotlight" below.
Trinity Episcopal Church in Iowa City hosted a discussion of stem cell research as part of its regular Sunday Morning Adult Education series. I organized and led the two-part series, held on 16 and 23 October, together with Dr. Alan Moy, a pulmonologist in private practice in Iowa City with a background in biotechnology research.

After a brief introduction, Dr. Moy presented the basic scientific aspects of stem cell research, including the potential benefits to clinical practice arising from stem cell research, but also noting that embryonic stem cell research involves the death of the embryos from which stem cells are removed. Dr. Garrett then reviewed the "standard model" of clinical ethics most commonly used in American medical practice, the system of "Principalism" developed by Drs. Thomas Beauchamp and James Childress. He concluded that under this theory, if an embryo was considered a person, any research involving the death of that embryo would not be ethically proper. Dr. Garrett then gave a brief description of an explicitly Christian approach to stem cell research, arriving at essentially the same conclusion: the Christian understanding of the moral value of human persons would forbid embryonic stem cell research if embryos fit a scripture-based definition of personhood.

The discussion then became more general, with questions for the discussion leaders mixed in with personal viewpoints of those present. Dr. Moy, a practicing Roman Catholic, gave an eloquent exposition of the that Church's position: since personhood begins at the moment of conception, embryonic stem cell research cannot be proper. Several of the participants raised the issue of weighing the balance of potential benefits that might result from stem cell research against the loss of embryos. A number of participants asked questions about the scientific details involved, which led Dr. Moy to clarify that there is potential benefit from research on stem cells not derived from embryos, and that these forms of stem cell research do not raise the types of moral questions raised by embryonic stem cell research.

The second week's session began with brief introductions from Dr. Moy and me. Discussion centered around the nature of personhood in a Christian context, and the role of Scripture and church teaching in informing the process of ethical decision-making. I mentioned that a number of Christian denominations had put forward documents on stem cell research, but that opinions were so varied that it was impossible to identify an inclusive, "Christian" perspective on this issue. No conclusion was reached at the end of the second session (nor we intend that there should be one), but participants were energized by the discussion, and many felt that their understanding of the moral and technical aspects of stem cell research had been greatly improved.


Season of Creation in Delaware parish
The Episcopal Church of Sts Andrew and Matthew in Wilmington, Delaware, concluded its Season of Creation series on November 20, Feast of Christ the King, under the theme "The Cosmic Christ--A New Heaven and a New Earth: The Reign of Christ."

In a twist on what has become a controversial term, this year's seven-week Season of Creation was called "Intelligent Design: In the Beginning was the Word." As the Rector, the Rev. Canon Lloyd S. Casson, wrote in a letter to the parish, "In fact, our intention is to embrace the theory of evolution as observable, scientific fact, while at the same time embracing the faith that a loving personal God is the instigator and at the center of an ongoing creative process, Who actively interacts within human history. We see in the fifteen billion year Universe Story, that God has imposed an 'Intelligent Design' or "moral pattern" in creation that, when wee human beings perceive and follow it, offers us the Salvation we seek and the healing of the planet."

The planners designed a spiritual journey featuring "a creative blend of contemporary liturgy and readings, together with music, dance and other art-forms celebrating the majesty of God's creation and humanity's destiny within it, experiencing our kinship with all creatures, and committing ourselves to becoming instruments for the healing of Planet Earth."

Canon Casson was joined by the Hon. Russell W. Peterson, former Governor of Delaware; the Rev. Tyrone Johnson, founder and CEO of "Churches Take a Corner"; peace activist Michael Berg; and the Vestry and other parish leaders.

On 16 October, former Governor Peterson closed his talk with these words, "Changing the threatening trends is not a pipe dream. The world, as I have just shown, has started to make it happen. Each of us can make a difference. Each of us can participate in selecting the proper leaders, in choosing a lifestyle and in purchasing the materials that will minimize one's detrimental impact on the environment, and in teaching others. We need not wait for others. Our individual actions, added together, will give us the power to save the Earth, the only known home of any life anywhere."

Questions about the series may be sent by email to Sts Andrew & Matthew, or by post to 719 N. Shipley St., Wilmington, DE 19801.


Engineer preaches on science & religion
    [This sermon was preached at the Episcopal/Lutheran Common Mission, Gualala, Cal., on Trinity Sunday by software engineer Dr. James Jordan. He is a member of the ST&F Network Steering Board and also the Executive Council's Committee on ST&F. He introduces himself "In the Spotlight" below.]
May the Holy Spirit guide our thoughts and words.

Today is Trinity Sunday, when preachers and homilists try to explain the mystery called the Holy Trinity. But the lesson from Genesis [1:1 - 2:3] and Psalm 8 focus our attention on Creation. So I am using this homily to introduce the Episcopal Church's new guide to Creation, called A Catechism of Creation: An Episcopal Understanding.

The Rev. Dr. John Keggi, the first recipient of the Episcopal Church's Genesis Award for Science and Religion, is a wise priest and scientist. He gives an interesting explanation of the Holy Trinity: Think of the physical space in which we live. It is all around us. We orient ourselves within that space according to three coordinates: up/down, back/forth (or north/south), and left/right (or east/west). We relate to physical space via these coordinates.

Now, think of God as the spiritual space that surrounds us. The Holy Trinity provides us with three coordinates through which you and I can relate to the mystery of an infinite and unfathomable God: God the Almighty, "Maker of Heaven and Earth"; God the Incarnate, Jesus Christ, whose Word informs us and whose love raises our physical world into the Kingdom of God; and God the Holy Spirit, with us and in us as you and I live our earthly lives. Not a complete description of God, but one that allows us to orient ourselves in the spiritual space called God.

Similarly, the Catechism of Creation helps orient people in the space that we call Creation. Here there are two coordinates: theology and science. For many, theology and science are in conflict--although those of us who are both scientists and faithful Christians do not see it. (The issues were resolved for me when I was still an undergraduate, strongly influenced by the Rev. Dr. David Anderson, who was both Episcopal priest and Professor of Physics at Oberlin College.) But many secular scientists on the one hand and Biblical literalists on the other have not resolved the apparent conflict. The Catechism guides us through the confusion of strident voices from one camp or the other.

Secularists and some scientists reject the church's theology of creation and its assertion of God as Creator because they cannot apply scientific methods to faith and the spiritual space of God. This has led otherwise good and moral people to be blind to the work of the Holy Spirit, even to belittle believers.

And, many church people reject the conclusions of science, especially those regarding cosmology (the origins of the universe) and evolution (how living beings changed over time to what they are today). The modern-day manifestation of this rejection comes in two hypotheses: "Young Earth Creationism"--also called "Creation Science"--is the notion that God created the universe about 6000 years ago. "Intelligent Design" is the rejection of evolution because Intelligent Design believers think certain complicated life forms could not have evolved without divine intervention. Most scientists reject these ideas as being, at best, pseudo-science.

A Catechism of Creation was written by the Episcopal Church"s Committee on Science, Technology, and Faith. The Committee is a group of twelve theologians, ethicists, scientists, and technologists (to which The Rev. Phina Borgeson, who has preached several times here at the Common Mission, is a consultant). The Catechism presents an understanding that reconciles a sound, well-reasoned theology of Creation with a sound, well-reasoned scientific view of Creation.

The Catechism has three sections that frame thinking about Creation. The first describes the theology of God's relationship with Creation. The second describes the relationship between theology and science--an understanding of how the Word of theology becomes incarnate in science. The third section describes the imperative for the care of Creation derived from our theology.

So what is Creation? To quote the Catechism: "'Creation' refers to the Triune God's originating act of creating; to everything that God continually brings into being; and to whatever new creation God intends. It includes both the visible and the invisible."

The Prayer Book's Eucharistic Prayer C affirms God as Creator, "God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, at your command all things came to be. By your will they were created and have their being."

Our belief in the Holy Trinity as Creator is deeply rooted in Scripture, beginning with the Genesis story we just heard. It is also rooted in our understanding of Christ as the Word, "through whom all things were made." Scripture often speaks of God making a "new creation," redeemed by Christ's union with the world and informed by the Holy Spirit. God continually calls forth, dwells in, and provides for Creation.

Scripture tells vivid stories like today's--stories that demonstrate God's love, as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. The stories teach us the spiritual understandings that developed as God's Triune self was revealed to successive generations. These understandings are expressed in a metaphorical language appropriate to the peoples of the Middle East, 2000 years ago.

It is unlikely that the authors of Scripture thought they were writing scientific accounts. I believe that to rely on Scripture for scientific truths is a heretical misuse of spiritual wisdom.

The scientific method is a careful, systematic way to explain describable observations. You start with an idea. You develop the idea into a hypothesis--a rigorous statement that describes how the idea might explain the observations. You do experiments to learn whether the hypothesis does indeed explain the observations. Then you and other scientists do more. You look for other observations that the hypothesis should explain. You can call a hypothesis a theory only when you and your peers are convinced that it explains (or does not conflict with) all the observations it touches.

Evolution is a good example. Most biological scientists agree that the theory of evolution is one of the most firmly rooted theories in the biological sciences. It is the best explanation of how life developed, tested over and over.

The theory of evolution is derived from observations--the proper domain of science. But it does not speak to the questions of how the rules by which evolution happens were established, and who established them--the proper domain of theology.

The problem with Young Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design is that neither hypothesis stands the test of science; neither provides as complete or reasoned an explanation of the data as does the theory of evolution. Lastly, the Catechism teaches that the "dominion" that we as Children of God have over Creation is one of Godly love and stewardship. You and I are called to value all Creation and to tend it with love because God has declared Creation to be good and loves Creation.

Science--the study of how God's Creation works--gives us the tools for improving our love and stewardship, the knowledge we need if we are to do as we are charged in Genesis. The Catechism provides the theological basis for responsible environmentalism. I believe it is the most important section of the Catechism for this congregation's evangelism. It is a teaching of God's love, and of the imperative that we love as God does, not just other Christians and other humans, but all Creation. We live in a place that evidences the spiritual nature of Creation, a spiritual nature with which many non-Christians resonate--and we have a message for them, a Gospel of the love of God for Creation, a Gospel of the Redemption by God of all Creation.

I commend A Catechism of Creation to you as a guide as you think about Creation. Copies are available in the back of the church.

And now, from the Prayer Book:
    We acclaim you, holy Lord, glorious in power. Your mighty works reveal your wisdom and love. You formed us in your own image, giving the whole world into our care, so that, in obedience to you, our Creator, we might rule and serve all your creatures. Give us a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory. Amen.

In the Spotlight: Some Network members take a bow

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.


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).


Previous Newsletter Issues
Vol. 1-1, All Saints 2001
Vol. 1-2, Epiphany 2002
Vol. 1-3, Trinity 2002
Vol. 3-1, Ash Wednesday 2004
Vol. 3-2, St. Luke (18 Oct.) 2004
Vol. 2-1, New Year 2003
Vol. 2-2, Sts Peter & Paul 2003
Vol. 2-3, Christmas 2003
Vol. 4-1, Lent 5 (mid-March) 2005
Vol. 4-2, St. Aidan (31 Aug.) 2005
Newsletter Homepage: http://home.earthlink.net/~smithmoran/

Send comments and news items to the Network Newsletter editor, The Rev. Barbara Smith-Moran, S.O.Sc.
All Network Newsletter materials may be reproduced with proper attribution.
Revised 4 December 2005