|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.
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:
|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:
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|
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|
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:
|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.
I am a lifelong Episcopalian, and a member of Trinity Church, Iowa City, Iowa. I have been a family physician for more than twenty years, and currently I am Associate Professor of Clinical Family Medicine in the University of Iowa's Carver College of Medicine. Since 2001, I have been Chair of the University of Iowa Hospital's clinical ethics committee.
I am married to Eileen C. Fisher, M.D. We have one son, Owen.
I am proud to be the son of the Rev. Dr. Samuel M. Garrett, late Professor of Church History at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California.
I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I tell someone that I have an interest in faith and science I almost always get a response of surprise or disbelief: "They're opposites, aren't they?" "Really?" "Does your church allow that kind of thing?"
My answers are "No, yes and yes."
My interest in science goes back to childhood and I worked in medical research for a time as a young adult. I left that work about 20 years ago to become a priest. But my interest in science has never left and I've discovered that I am among a growing number who share an interest in the intersection between science and faith.
Meeting at the same time in Santa Fe were faith-and-science groups from a number of other denominations. About 50 people in all from the Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, United Church of Christ, Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches attended this the annual meeting of the Ecumenical Roundtable on Science, Technology & the Church, where we heard from leading scholars on topics that included some of the questions being raised in the areas of cognitive science and religion and on the complex relationships between venture capitalism, the scientific community and religion. Other areas touched upon included ethics, the environment, social justice and the use and interpretation of scripture.
Later in the summer, I traveled to Scargill House, a retreat center in northwest Yorkshire, England, for the Annual Gathering of the Society of Ordained Scientists (SOSc), of which I am a member. It is a religious order in the Church of England founded about 20 years ago. All of the members of the society are ordained and trained in some field of science. While most of the members belong to the Church of England, there are members from other denominations and others parts of the Anglican Communion. I serve as Co-convener of the Society's North American Chapter.
I can be reached by email at email@example.com.
As a priest with a background in both theology and agriculture (farmer in Kansas), I have worked to integrate those two disciplines as they pertain to being a good steward of the natural world. I took my undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Southwestern College in 1964. In 1968 I received my seminary degree from Boston University. While in seminary I discerned a call to serve as a missionary. In preparation for going to Africa, where my family and I served in both Congo and Zimbabwe, I attended Kansas State on a Fellowship to study International Agricultural Development and Animal Science for one year.
We were transferred to Zimbabwe where I continued doing extension work in village level agriculture. It was also in Zimbabwe that I made the transition from trying to import Western hi-tech agriculture with its attendant hi-inputs, to a sustainable agricultural systems approach. I owe that transition to what I was learning in the field about what worked, was affordable and available in terms of inputs, and to a week spent with E. F. Schumacher, famous author of "Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered"--although at that time he had yet to write the book. From those experiences I began to delve into organic systems and ones that promised not only to be sustainable but renewable.
In 1981 I completed my doctorate at Boston University with a dissertation on "Biblical Perspectives on World Hunger." I was then hired by Heifer Project International and served as a regional director for nearly 16 years. It proved to be an excellent way for me to unite my vocations and to be of use to those who are poor and hungry in the world. Those years were formative in further defining, learning, researching, writing and teaching about sustainable agriculture. While with Heifer I also took a year's sabbatical at the University of Kansas graduate school of Biology where I studied plant and avian ecology. I also am deeply grateful for my friendship with Wes Jackson of the Land Institute in Kansas and for what he has taught me.
Since retiring, still working part-time in a parish in Holden, Massachusetts, I have continued to try to help people understand that theology has much to say in terms of an ecological ethic and ecology has much to teach us in the world of theology. I continue to work and live in ways that care for the natural world and to promote a land ethic that promises hope for all God's creatures. It is good to be part of such an organization as the Network for Science, Faith and Technology.
And, oh yes, in case you are wondering, it bothers me deeply that the Kansas School board wants to redefine Science.
I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a cradle Episcopalian. I grew up with the Episcopal College Ministry, Canterbury, at Ohio State and Michigan, with mentors like Denis Baly and David Anderson, scholars and faithful Christians. They helped me understand that reason, science, and technology are not antithetical to Christianity and faith.
In parallel, I became a more active Episcopalian, making the transition from followership to leadership--on the Parochial Church Council of Christ Church and member of the Board of the Seamen's Institute, Bangkok; member and Senior Warden on the Vestry of St. Jude's, Cupertino; EFM co-mentor for two EFM groups; and Delegate to Convention, Diocese of El Camino Real. For several years, I chaired El Camino Real's Committee on Culture and Technology, focused on the impacts on congregations and individual Christians of advances in technology and on El Camino Real's evolving mix of cultures. More recently, I have been member and Senior Warden of the Bishop's Committee of St. Innocent of Alaska Mission, Gualala, CA, and a member of the Common Mission Committee overseeing the blending of St. Innocent of Alaska with Gualala Lutheran Mission.
Gualala is 120 miles northwest of San Francisco, in an relatively unspoiled, isolated area of the Redwood Coast. In my spare time, I am involved with environmental activist groups that are trying to sustain and enhance the area's many environmental values.
I can be reached at email@example.com.
|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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