Encouraging engagement between science & Christians

First published 19th March 2015

The Bishop of Swindon, Rt Revd Lee Rayfield has warmly welcomed the announcement of a three-year programme to help promote greater relationship between faith and science.

The Church of England-backed project is to receive more than 700,000 with the aim of encouraging more engagement between science and Christians.

The announcement comes during British Science Week 2015, a 10-day celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths, which takes place until 22 March.

Scientists and theologians are to be brought together with Christian leaders as part of the three-year Durham University programme funded by Templeton World Charity Foundation. More than 1,000 people training for Anglican ministry will be offered access to training and resources on contemporary science and the Christian faith as part of the project.

Bishop Lee says, I am delighted the Templeton World Charity Foundation has decided to fund this much-needed programme. It is led by some excellent theologians and scientists and will help church leaders bridge these worlds thoughtfully and creatively. I was pleased to have had opportunity to contribute to pilot work and commend its funding.

One of my most memorable experiences in church happened when my wife and I moved to a new area and church, continues Bishop Lee. The talk for a service for all ages was given by a lay minister who was not only skilled at communicating the Christian faith but a biologist.

She drew on the insights of science and Christian faith to simply but beautifully illustrate the biblical image of the church as a body with many different parts. At that time I was a practising professional scientist as well as a committed follower of Jesus, and it made me aware of how seldom these worlds were effectively connected and how significant it was when they were.

The project, run in partnership with the Church of England, will invite proposals for grants of up to 10,000 for scientists in congregations a scheme aimed at using the expertise of Christians who are scientists to promote greater understanding of the relationship between science and faith.

The scheme will also research attitudes towards science amongst church leaders both within the main denominations but also in new churches and organisations representing a range of different denominations.

The programme will be led by Revd Professor David Wilkinson, Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University and an astrophysicist, with Professor Tom McLeish, Professor of Physics at Durham University and the Bishop of Kingston, Rt Revd Dr Richard Cheetham.

Professor Wilkinson comments, Too often Christian leaders have felt that science is a threat or have felt a lack of confidence in engaging with it.

This project is a significant commitment by Templeton World Charity Foundation and churches in England to take science seriously in what it means for theology and in valuing science as a gift.

One of the things that we have been particularly interested in over the last few years is how we can help senior church leaders understand contemporary science and not see it as something to be fearful of, but something that can help theology.

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