The History and Future of the American Scientific Affiliation in the Science-Faith Dialogue

The History and Future of the American Scientific Affiliation in the Science-Faith DialogueThe story of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) begins in Los Angeles in the early 1930’s. The cultural setting in the United States when the ASA was founded was a time when many conservative Christians felt they were being targeted in a culture war between science and the Bible. The Scopes “Monkey Trial” had just happened in 1925, and there were many cartoons illustrating attacks on Christian faith, the church, and the Bible coming from both science and culture.

Pastor Irwin Moon of Montecito Park Union Church developed a series of dramatic scientific demonstrations to illustrate theological principles in an effort to engage the youth of his community. These “Sermons from Science” as they were called (or SFS) attracted substantial attention, and before long, Pastor Moon began taking his show on the road.

In 1937, Moody Bible Institute President Will Houghton happened to be in the audience at one of Moon’s presentations. Houghton was so impressed that he invited Moon to join Moody Bible Institute that same night. Both of these influential individuals shared a strong desire to reach high school and college age youth with their message that science and faith are compatible.

Shortly after this providential meeting, another important connection, F. Alton Everest, saw Moon’s SFS show in Oregon while Everest was an electrical engineering faculty member at Oregon State University. The meeting between these two men also resonated with a sense of shared passion and purpose for spreading the message of science and faith as allies.

All three of these leaders were concerned about the challenges that young Christians encountered in going off to college, and the incapacity of most churches to provide resources or advice of any substance. They decided that a Christian organization of practicing scientists could help establish a strategy to deal with these challenges, and prevent them from shattering the faith of Christian college students.

With the support of long time Moody patron and Board of Trustees President, Henry Parsons Crowell, the founding meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation was held in early September of 1941 at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Moody President Houghton’s invitational letter outlined their vision for the new organization. Houghton indicated that the group would not be associated with Moody Bible Institute, nor would Moon be a part of the founding group. Moon never became a member of ASA, but generously gave both advice and financial support.

The ASA founders soon recognized and nurtured an essential difference from other faith-based scientific organizations. Whereas other groups coupled Christian faith with a specific perspective on both science and scripture, the ASA was then and continues to be a “big tent” for discussing various interpretations of science and scripture, in an atmosphere of intentional humility and respect.

In 1948, the ASA published five thousand copies of its first major publication, Modern Science and Christian Faith: Eleven Essays on the Relationship of the Bible to Modern Science 1, with chapters written by ASA members in different disciplines. Ultimately, 350,000 copies were sold, and with its wide distribution, it accomplished a great deal in furthering the message of compatibility between science and scripture.

The ASA began to publish its own journal in 1949, initially called Journal of the ASA (JASA), which continues through today as Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (PSCF). The name of the Journal itself indicates the “big tent” idea of the ASA, with its members holding and deliberating various perspectives on relevant topics.

Another major development from the early days of the ASA is the beginning of what appeared to be an easing of the tendency toward strict biblical literalism. A big factor in this development was Baptist theologian Bernard Ramm’s presumptuously named 1954 book, The Christian View of Science and Scripture 2, which strongly suggested that the language of Scripture is neither technical nor scientific, but rather the common language of the contextual culture. The Reverend Billy Graham heartily endorsed Ramm’s book, which played a significant role in popularizing it among evangelical Christians. As Graham famously stated:

“The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption… God did create the universe… God created humanity. Whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create humanity. Whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what men and women are and their relationship to God.”3

During the first three decades of the ASA, many — perhaps even most — U.S. scientists (whether Christian or secular) believed that a person could accept either evolution or creation, but not both. In 1971, Stanford materials scientist and physicist Richard Bube, then editor of the ASA Journal, published two articles foreshadowing a shift in this perspective. The articles, entitled “We Believe in Creation”4 and “Biblical Evolutionism?”5, outlined Bube’s (as well as a ground-swell of other members’) belief that creation is first and foremost a theological concept, while evolution is a scientific one. Although some members had previously suggested that evolution was a tool used by God to direct biological creation, most earlier articles had proposed an either-or choice between the two.

Leslie Wickman

Leslie Wickman

Even so, the ASA Journal continues to publish articles making a case for other perspectives on origins. In 1978, not long after Dr. Bube’s articles were published, a special issue of the ASA Journal devoted to origins issues was published. Entitled “Origins and Change: Selected Readings from the JASA,”6 it contained articles that represented the full spectrum of ASA members’ views. The issue included voices apathetic to evolutionary biology, but the overall message was that old-earth geology, biological evolution, and Christianity can peacefully coexist. Perhaps as significantly, several ASA presidents over the last century have held viewpoints other than Evolutionary Creation or Theistic Evolution, including Intelligent Design and Old Earth Creation.

Turning our attention to the present, the ASA continues to be a place of discussion and grappling with controversial issues, rather than an advocacy organization. The common thread binding ASA members together is an adherence to orthodox Christian faith (in accord with both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds) coupled with a respect for rigorous science, while considering various interpretations of science and scripture in an environment of humility and respect.

Furthermore, the ASA is a network of men and women in science and related disciplines, who share a common faithfulness to the Scripture, as well as a commitment to integrity in the practice of science. The members are also committed to engaging the Christian and science communities in dialog around important issues of faith and science.

The ASA’s mission is to “integrate, communicate, and facilitate properly researched science and theology in service to the Church and the scientific community. ASA members are confident that such a goal is not only possible but necessary for an adequate understanding of God and Nature. We believe that honest and open studies of both Scripture and Nature are mutually beneficial in developing a full understanding of human identity, relationships, and our environment. Additionally, the ASA is committed to advising churches and our society in how best to employ science and technology while preserving the integrity of God’s creation.”7

The mission of the ASA is accomplished through various publications (including the peer-reviewed journal Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, and online magazine God & Nature); the ASA web-based resources; personal interactions, networking, learning opportunities, and sharing of research at the ASA Annual Meeting each summer (to be held July 28-31 this year at School of Mines in Golden, CO), as well as at local events throughout the year, and community support of churches and other organizations.

Looking forward to the future of the ASA, our vision is focused on expansion in the following areas: audience/membership, spheres of influence, and discussion topics.

With respect to expanding our audience, we have quite a lot of room to grow. A recent study by sociologist Elaine Ecklund at Rice University found that 61% of American scientists self-identify as Christian8. With some six million-plus practicing scientists and engineers employed in the United States, that means there are more than 3.6 million self-identifying Christians working as scientists or engineers in this country, while the ASA membership is only about three thousand! Many newcomers to the ASA annual conference express a profound sense of homecoming at finally finding the organization, citing uneasiness about discussing faith in the workplace, or anxiety about discussing science at church. Sometimes it seems that the ASA is a very well-kept secret, and that needs to change.

Another important element of expansion is that of reaching the next generation. The ASA has a very important message for our culture, and — as articulated by our founders — in particular, for our young people who are still thinking about what to do with their lives. We need to make a greater effort to reach students and others at an earlier age, so they understand that science and faith can co-exist. Young people need to know that science is a viable career choice for Christians, and that it is possible to be both a faithful Christian as well as a top-notch scientist. That being said, the ASA must extend its reach to churches, families, and youth, as well as to those who teach and influence them. Without this important outreach, both sides lose: the science community loses Christians from the discipline, and the Church loses scientists from its fellowship.

One of the key strategies the ASA is developing to help engage young people is an internship program for students and others who would like to immerse themselves for a period of time in a science-faith project within our network. We are also in the planning process for creating a database of faculty members, science practitioners, and others with STEM-oriented mission opportunities to enable Christians in the sciences to use their disciplines to be difference makers for Christ, as well as to attract new members who have a passion for social justice.

Our outreach effort includes expanding our sphere of influence through engaging with seminaries, churches, home-school organizations and schools of education, as well as encouraging and supporting members and chapters in local communities to lead the science-faith dialog within their own networks. We also plan to further develop a library of presentations and other resources that will help empower and mobilize existing members to reach out to churches, schools, and civic organizations in their local areas.

One of the most significant initiatives we are using to accomplish this part of the ASA’s expansion effort is our Local Chapters Campaign, funded in large part by the Templeton Foundation through Fuller Seminary’s “Science and Theology for Emerging Adult Ministries” program. This Campaign involves reaching out to individual ASA members as well as colleges, seminaries, schools of education, churches and para-church organizations in areas without thriving local ASA chapters to encourage the development of new local chapters to support members in engaging within their own communities. We’ve recently collaborated with individual members in the southwestern U.S. in starting several new chapters over the last few months.

The final area of expansion involves multiplying the conversation topics to include more issues involving ethics, engineering, appropriate/sustainable technologies, health/medicine, and environmental stewardship, in addition to our ongoing interest in discussion of origins. This will help to further distinguish the ASA from the other science-faith organizations that deal primarily with conversations about origins from a specific perspective. Speaking of other science-faith organizations, we are working to encourage new networking opportunities with them in order to extend the reach of our mutually shared resources and events.

In summary, the ASA has played an historic role in stimulating the open dialog between science and faith, without advocating for a particular position. As a preeminent national science-faith fellowship organization, we will strive to set the tone for civil dialog among those with diverse opinions on all issues relating to science and Christian faith. In the process, we will work to further spread the message that science and faith are allies, not enemies, and expand the reach of the ASA to broader topics and a larger audience. Those of us who are already members know the rewards, and countless others could not only benefit from, but also contribute to our community.

Leslie Wickman acknowledges the historical contributions to this article of ASA Fellows Ted Davis 9, Terry Gray 10, and Jack Haas 11. Wickman is executive director of the ASA. For more than a decade she was an engineer for Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space, where she worked on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station Programs.

Christians embracing Evolution

Christians embracing Evolution

A realistic reconstruction or what Lucy looked like. From the Houston Museum of Natural Science exhibit The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopa at the new Discovery Times Square Exposition center in Times Square, 2009. By Jason Kuffer, cc via Flickr

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the February 2015 SciTech newsletter, which is published by the Presbyterian Association on Science, Technology and the Christian Faith (PASTCF). R. Wesley McCoy wrote the article upon learning that the PASTCF Executive Board had granted him the Daniel W. Martin “Science as Christian Vocation” Award, which honors persons whose professional scientific, technical, or educational work is clearly part of their calling to serve God and the world.

I have been a public high school science teacher for 36 years, and I have been a Christian for longer than that. I have found that a great many people think that their faith must be somehow shielded from the effects of science, as if science had the power to spoil or destroy faith. Unlike most Christians, I am required by my career choice to navigate quite a few science and faith issues all day, every day. My faith has been of great benefit to my understanding of science, and my scientific curiosity has been an exciting way to embrace my faith.

Let me explain how this could be true. My journey in science began, as I recall, with my grandfather. He worked as an advertising salesman for a local radio station in Augusta, Georgia. When I was four years old, he ran into our house and brought us all outdoors. His excitement was directed upward, and as he pointed, we all watched Sputnik travel overhead. I was captivated, not only by his enthusiasm, but for the power and possibility of science. If we could do this, what else was now possible? The methods of science made so many things explainable.

My faith journey was beginning around the same time. We went to church in Augusta and I remember of few of my Sunday lessons there, even as a five-year-old. When my father was selected as the new manager of a B.F. Goodrich store near Atlanta, we moved and began to attend a Baptist church during the summer leading up to the 1960 presidential election.

My clearest memory is of my mother suddenly standing and taking us out of the church one day. She told me later that it was because the minister was explaining to the congregation why a Roman Catholic should never be allowed in public office. We were suddenly churchless!

It happened, though, that we had moved in right next door to a Lutheran parsonage, so, when the pastor came over soliciting ten dollars to help pay the light bill at church, my parents decided to shift over to the Lutherans. As a new six-year-old Lutheran, I had nothing but questions for all the people I met in the church. Possibly, this is how I nurtured my faith all these years.

A person with a Scotch-Irish surname is a rarity in a Lutheran church, but I did not figure that out for many years. Maybe a fish out of water can be excused for asking so many questions. I determined that questions are the best way to nourish faith, just as questions are the best way to nourish science.

When Deborah and I married at age 29, we agreed to find a church with both an exceptional educational program and a strong community outreach. We were drawn to the teaching and ministry of a Presbyterian (USA) church in our area.

Among the excellent ministers and staff, we found the Rev. Mary Beth Lawrence, now of Fredericksburg, MD, who has a gift of matching congregants with service opportunities. Mary Beth urged me to reply to the invitation from PASTCF to identify Presbyterians interested in science-faith issues to help form a substantial presence in the church community.

My career as a science teacher had led me to a critical point in my faith journey. Faced early on with students, parents, and school administrators who believed that they had a Christian duty to reject scientific explanations of the world, I had to work out an explanation for what I believed myself. Fortunately, my family held very straightforward, open attitudes toward science.

Though no one in my family had ever graduated from college, all valued education very much. My mother responded to my seventh-grade fascination with the Periodic Table with the exclamation, “I’ll bet God was just tickled that people finally figured that out!”

Though I had no particular background in theology, that idea resonated so strongly within me, it became fundamental to my Christian understanding today. Yes, I believe God really is pleased when human beings figure out how the Universe works.

We are called upon to find and confirm natural rules and processes. The questions we ask about the natural world then strengthen our understanding of and commitment to God.

I then had to construct teaching methods for helping students understand evolution and cosmology without inculcating them in my own faith. Early on my school did not nurture diversity, but fortunately diversity was thrust upon us as Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist students all began to study and work with us. I used religious diversity as a theme in my classroom. I explained to all my classes that certainly there are people who have religious views that do not fit with the current scientific explanations of speciation.

I explained that sometimes we find people who dismiss the ideas of evolution and cosmology on religious grounds. I explained that my job was not to cause anyone to change their religious ideas. My job as a science teacher was to present the most comprehensive current explanations for the natural world that I could find. We must also remember that science is constantly being improved as more data are discovered. As a self-correcting process, science has been shown to be a reliable method for understanding the natural world for many centuries. I promised my students that I would explain what is known about the natural world and how we know this to be true.

Sometimes students, parents, or other teachers suggest that a creation-evolution debate is the best way to allow “all sides” to present their ideas. I think that this is a spectacularly bad idea. First of all, such a debate assumes that there are only two possible views that may be held—either God exists or science is real. This either/or format completely negates any possible benefit from such a discussion, and it prevents us from investigating some really interesting questions.

For example, is evolutionary change one of the remarkable forms of creation, wherein God has formed a world that can create more species? How exactly does God work in the world? Do we restrict the word “miracle” to refer only to those events we cannot explain? If so, what happens to the miracle when we learn how to explain it?

The other main reason for rejecting such a debate as a teaching tool is that there really are people who believe that they have the only true understanding of God, and that all others are not simply misguided but doomed. I recall a middle school teacher telling her class, “Well, I am going to have to teach evolution to you, but I am a Christian, so you all know how I feel about that.”

Christians embracing Evolution

Charles Darwin Statue at the UK’s Natural History Musem. By PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE, cc via Flickr

Actually, no, I don’t. Do all Christians believe exactly the same things? Do Christian views result in wholesale rejection of all of science? A classroom full of teenagers is fragmented enough—racially, socially, economically, and by sexual orientation.

I do not need to further alienate them all from each other and from me.

Carrie, a ninth-grader in my Biology class, was the granddaughter of a minister at a church adjoining our school campus.

It was advertised as “Bible-believing” and “Footwashing.” Carrie was very quiet when I introduced the idea of evolution on the first day of Biology class. After teaching her about research methods, data analysis, cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, mutation, ecology, and classification, I told the class that we had been studying evolution all semester. Understanding evolution, I said, puts all the concepts of biology together in one explanation. I encouraged Carrie to go home and explain what we were learning in class with her family. When she returned to class on Monday morning, I asked her how things had gone with her family. She said, “I told them that God had to get all these things here somehow, and maybe He used evolution to do it.” I only hope that Carrie’s learning represents the cognitive shift made by hundreds of other children.

Teaching students in a classroom can be a very isolating experience. When the door closes, I am the only adult, and I am responsible for the science education of 35 students at a time. Most science teachers take this responsibility very seriously and try their best to implement the policies chosen by state and local school boards.

Sometimes, however, the school board can make a decision that flies in the face of excellence in education. The Cobb County Public Schools have a history of evolution rejection. For example, in 1983 the school board passed an equal-time regulation which required Biology teachers to teach creationism for 30 minutes if they chose to teach evolution for 30 minutes. The regulation also forbade the teaching of human evolution. The equal-time policy was abandoned as unconstitutional after two years, but the prohibition on teaching human evolution continued in force until 2002. Some teachers ignored these rules, while in other schools PTSA parents volunteered to time teachers with stopwatches when teachers decided to teach evolution.

I was working for NASA during the two years the policy was in force, so I did not have to face the implications of this rule in my classroom. However, I did find that I could teach all the human evolution I wanted to if students asked me questions about it, which students invariably did.

My school board responded to an anti-evolution petition signed by more than a thousand members of a church in our community by deciding to insert a “warning sticker” into Biology textbooks. I served on the textbook committee which had just selected Miller and Levine’s Biology as the best choice for our students.

I took action, complaining to our superintendent, our science supervisor, and our school board members. I contacted the National Center for Science Education and Eugenie Scott suggested an “alternate sticker” which I presented to the school board.

As I found out more than a year later, the alternate sticker was rejected as “too weak,” meaning it did not warn students about evolution strongly enough. It was obvious that the people who wrote this sticker had limited knowledge of science.

For example, the sticker was mandated to be placed into Biology and Earth Science books, but nobody required it to be placed into Environmental Science or Genetics textbooks, even though my Genetics text contained four chapters specifically about human evolution.

Fortunately, a local parent sued the school board to have the stickers removed, and I was allowed to testify against my school district in Federal Court in Atlanta. I was able to testify that even though the sticker was a very small piece of paper, it was disproportionately damaging to our efforts at science education, devaluing the scientific process. After all, bullets and viruses are very small things, but they can have devastating effects.

I do not know all the legal machinations that took place. For example, the church petition mysteriously went missing. However, Judge Clarence Cooper ordered the stickers to be removed immediately, and they were removed. The school board signed an agreement to not place stickers in textbooks in the future. The local newspaper estimated the cost to our county taxpayers as more than $300,000, including the $70 they had to pay my substitute teacher so that I could travel to Atlanta and testify.

The real message of that story for me is that the people best situated to make a difference in clarifying science education to the public are the people who attend our churches. What we need are people in our churches who understand the value of real science and real science education.

Church members can then be the ones who call on local and national leaders to press forward with plans to improve the science education being delivered to our students. Those very church members are they who can stand as witness to the fact that we Christians are compelled by our search for the truth to support strong science education standards.

The voices missing from most public discourse about the value of science education are the people who are dedicated Christians who reject the misinformation coming from creationists and supporters of intelligent design posturing. The general public seems to assume that all religious people agree with Ken Ham and his ilk. I am a Christian. I reject the pretend science espoused by the Creation Museum. We Christians not only accept evolution, we literally embrace evolution as an explanation of the natural world as created by God.

As we continue to discover new aspects of evolutionary processes, we acknowledge that our discovery allows us to glorify God more thoroughly and completely.

Wesley McCoy is an award-winning science teacher and, before retirement, was chair of the science department at North Cobb High School, Kennesaw, GA. He opposed actions of the Cobb County School Board to insert intelligent design theory into public school curriculums. Testifying at public hearings and in federal court, he urged strong science education standards in Georgia. He helped raise understanding in the religious community about the controversy and the importance of maintaining integrity in science education. Dr. McCoy was awarded Outstanding Biology Teacher for Georgia, the National Evolution Education Award, and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. His Ph.D. is from Georgia State University.

Science for the Seminaries: A two-year effort to re-imagine clergy education

Science for the Seminaries: A two-year effort to re-imagine clergy education

Classroom 6 in Stuart Hall on the Princeton Theological Seminary campus. Credit: cc by Luke Jones via Flickr


The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is assessing the effect of a pilot project it undertook two years ago.  In a partnership with the Templeton Foundation, grants were awarded to 10 seminaries to integrate science into their core theological curricula as part of the Science for Seminaries program.

How did it fare? A new report put out at the end of 2016 by the AAAS says not only were new curricula introduced at seminaries, but several of the schools built strong relationships with their scientific advisors and continued partnerships with scientist colleagues within their own or nearby institutions, often inviting scientists as guest lecturers in the classroom.

“Through strategic engagement with leaders in theological education and future religious leaders-in-training, Science for Seminaries anticipates a positive impact not only on seminary education, but on the broader American public,” wrote Jennifer Wiseman, director of AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER), in a 16-page report on the project. “It is our hope and vision that the enthusiasm expressed by participants in the program will be carried into the future congregations of seminary students, establishing a vibrant atmosphere conducive to informed discussions and contemplation of scientific advancement and its impact on life, knowledge, and service in today’s world.”

In 2014, each participant school was charged with the development and implementation of curricula with a science component in at least two core theological courses (such as those in systematic theology, biblical studies, church history and pastoral theology) within two years. The scientists in the program assisted the project faculty in curriculum planning and course implementation, bringing a breadth of knowledge in astrophysics, cosmology, genomics, genetics, paleontology, chemistry, neuroscience, biology, and other scientific disciplines, according to those in charge of the AAAS effort.

The AAAS officials also determined that science-focused, campus-wide activities would complement the coursework and resources from the project would be made available to interested seminaries as the project unfolded.

Winners (in alphabetical order) were:

  • Andover Newton Theological School – Newton Centre, Massachusetts
  • Catholic University of America – Washington, D.C.
  • Columbia Theological Seminary – Decatur, Georgia
  • Concordia Seminary – St. Louis, Missouri
  • Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
  • Howard University School of Divinity – Washington, D.C.
  • Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University – Berkeley, California
  • Multnomah Biblical Seminary – Portland, Oregon
  • Regent University School of Divinity – Virginia Beach, Virginia
  • Wake Forest University School of Divinity – Winston-Salem, N.C.

These seminaries began planning and implementing the new curricula for the 2014-2015 school and new courses and revisions were made and have stretched into the spring semester of 2017.

Organizers point to successful partnerships between theologians and scientists and the greater ability to ask the right questions when diving into the religion and science dialogue. One example of partnership was at Concordia Seminary of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, which partnered with science advisor S. Joshua Swamidass, assistant professor of laboratory and genomic medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, who said that in his work with religious leaders there was “substantial common ground, and real opportunities to work together for the common good.”

In the summer of 2015, AAAS brought together the seminary faculty and dean representatives with the DoSER project advisory committee and several scientific advisors to discuss the integration of science at their schools. The group advised AAAS on what topics should be approached by a series of short films produced for use in seminary classrooms. In turn, AAAS recommended science resources and connected the project faculty with scientists to engage their seminary communities.

Here’s the introductory video:

The complete video series can be found at online at www.scienceforseminaries.org. The video topics include:

  • Awe & Wonder: Scientists Reflect on Their Vocations
  • Have Science and Religion Always Been at War? The Draper-White Thesis
  • Space and Exploration: Humans in a Vast Universe
  • Biological Evolution and the Kinship of All Life
  • To Be Human
  • Is the Human Mind Predisposed to Religious Thought?
  • Frontiers of Neuroscience: Charting the Complexity of Our Brains
  • How Science Works
  • The Limits of Science

The video series features leading scientists and historians of science presenting science topics. Each film introduces the science and leaves room for the faculty to guide classroom discussion of societal implications and theological themes. The AAAS also produced study guides with additional resources that can also be found online.

How did coursework change at the seminaries? Throughout the 2015-2016 academic year, AAAS representatives visited the faculty, mentors, and science advisors at each seminary campus for the purposes of planning curricula. Ideas were shared and resources were gathered for implementation of the project. The seminaries were also encouraged to continue to sharpen their modified courses through ongoing meetings with their advisory teams.

AAAS reported that instead of the expected 20 course revisions, to date more than 116 courses have been impacted by the grants in the program through the 10 pilot seminaries. The core course areas included the topics of neuroscience, cosmology/astronomy and evolution. Several courses dealt with key intersection points such as church history courses about understanding biblical texts on creation in light of the key findings in evolution and cosmology, and systematic theology courses on considering ethics and morality in the context of neuroscience and psychology.

For example, Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, Laudato Si, was published in May 2015 during the project’s first year, inspiring many seminaries to address ecology and environmental sciences in unique ways.

The ELCA seminary participating in this project the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg allowed seminary students to reflect on economics, the environment and faith in a unique seminar called “The Environment and Religion in Appalachia: Immersion Seminar.” The seminar (Covalence, June 2014) was designed to give students an opportunity to consider strategies for dealing with conflict in the context of ministry. Seminarians from a variety of ministries were welcomed. “The journey is a search for wisdom between scars and healing in a land of great beauty and dramatic social change,” according to organizers. Houses of worship were described as ‘neighbors with responsibilities.’

The seminary in Gettysburg also expanded its Pastoral Theology of Cancer course, adding reflections on pastoral and theological considerations in light of the evolutionary principles guiding cancer formation and progression.

The project was officially launched in 2013, which was the same year the Zygon Center for Religion and Science at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) received a $200,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation to develop new curricula across its seminary programs as part of a 30-month, “Teaching, Religion and Science across the Seminary Curriculum” project. The aim was to teach religious leaders to relate religious wisdom and scientific knowledge. Five modules were created within existing required seminary classes at LSTC. They included “Neuroscience, Dementia, and Pastoral Care: An Interdisciplinary Conversation” in the course on Fostering Narratives of Hope; “Evolution and the Doctrine of Creation” in Systematic Theology I; “The Neuroscience of Reading” in Introduction to Christian Education; “Science, Healing and Miracles in the Gospel of Mark” in Jesus and the Gospels; and “Cognitive Science and our Understanding of Reflection and Judgment” in Ministry in Context.

Lea Schweitz, associate professor of systematic theology/religion and science at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, member of the steering committee of the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology, and director of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science, served on the advisory committee at AAAS. While the Zygon Center has had a longtime role in injecting scientific topics in the discussion of theology and faith at the seminary, Schweitz was impressed by the relationships forged through the Science for Seminaries project.

“One of the great successes of the project has been the development of life-giving relationships between the people who do the work of teaching in the Science for Seminaries project,” Schweitz wrote in the AAAS report. “Nurturing faculty-to-faculty connections has proven to be an effective approach for building sustainable groups committed to exploring the intersections of religion and science for the future.”

Faculty in the program took part in retreat sessions that covered pedagogical approaches to integrating key science topics, such as astronomy, evolution and neuroscience. The retreats included field trips to Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, and a stargazing tour and nature walk guided by a park ranger on the facade of Mt. Hood in Oregon.

Besides making some of the course syllabi available online, AAAS says it is working on a complementary approach to providing science enrichment to religious leaders who are already serving in faith communities. Many pastors and clergy seek continuing education opportunities provided by seminaries after completing traditional degree programs.

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