ELCA’s Wartburg Theological Seminary awarded Science for Seminaries grant
Wartburg Theological Seminary/By Dirk Hansen, [CC BY-NC 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iow,a is one of nine seminaries selected as part of a second round for the Science for Seminaries program.

The AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER) program has tapped the seminaries in partnership with the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in a five-year initiative seeks to prepare future faith leaders to engage their congregants in dialogues on science and technology issues.

The effort will be led by Craig Nessan, is an award-winning instructor at Wartburg, most notably being recognized in the mid-1990s for a course he taught on science and theology at the school. Nessan is academic dean and professor of contextual theology at Wartburg. He currently teaches courses in the areas of contextual theology, pastoral theology and theological ethics.   

The three-year pilot project for Science for the Seminaries included 10 schools, such as the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and ended in 2017. The next phase will ultimately select 32 seminaries to carry out 18-month projects.

The other schools in the latest round include Iliff School of Theology; Ambrose Seminary; Hood Theological Seminary; Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Catholic Theological Union; George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University; Knox Theological Seminary and St. John’s Seminary.

“Science and technology impact every aspect of modern life,” said DoSER Program Director Jennifer Wiseman in prepared remarks.

Relevant science exposure is “something that a wide range of seminaries are now recognizing as an important part of the education of future clergy,” she said, adding, “In turn, these leaders can set an environment in their future congregations that will welcome healthy discussions of the impact of science and technology on everything from philosophical and theological issues on what it means to be human to practical issues of public service around the world.”

A 2018 survey from ATS found that only one in 10 students pursuing Master of Divinity degrees has an undergraduate degree in the natural sciences.

Science for Seminaries provides schools with resources including subscriptions to Science magazine and to short films designed to spark classroom discussion on science topics. DoSER also recruits local scientists and science-experienced faith leaders as science advisers for each seminary and supports faculty members’ travel and registration to the AAAS Annual Meeting.

Participating seminaries pledge to incorporate science into at least two core courses and to hold at least one science-themed, campus-wide event during the grant period.


Susan Barreto


Susan is an author with a long-time interest in religion and science. She currently edits Covalence, the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology’s online magazine. She has written articles in The Lutheran and the Zygon Center for Religion and Science newsletter. Susan is a board member for the Center for Advanced Study of Religion and Science, the supporting organization for the Zygon Center and the Zygon Journal. She also co-wrote Our Bodies Are Selves with Dr. Philip Hefner and Dr. Ann Pederson.

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