Do science and faith mix? And if they do, how do they relate to one another? How should we as Christians engage with scientific issues like artificial intelligence, genetics, climate change, or pandemics?
Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science (ECLAS) was set up ten years ago to address these questions. The Revd Prof David Wilkinson, an astrophysicist and theology professor, and the late Prof Tom McLeish, a physicist, both saw science as a gift from God and something to be celebrated. They understood that science and faith actually complement one another when we allow each to speak its own language, and they wanted to give church leaders and congregations the tools and confidence to engage with science.
One of the ways ECLAS does this is through our Scientists in Congregations programme, which has just launched a new round of funding. If your church has links to a professional scientist in any field – perhaps someone in your congregation, perhaps a friend or colleague – why not team up and create a science-faith project? Over the next year, ECLAS is awarding grants of up to £10,000 to eight churches to run a project which benefits their congregation and the wider community.
Previous projects have ranged from environmental to mental health, and forensic archaeology to ‘Take Your Vicar to the Lab’! They’ve taken the form of plays, art installations, workshops and more. Sometimes they are ongoing projects over a year or more, such as Believe In Science’s Wonder Days for children, run by Holy Trinity and Christchurch, Stalybridge, and sometimes they are a one-off, like the Does God Want Me to Take the Vaccine? webinar led by Pastor Alton Bell at Wembley Family Church. The programme is open to churches across the UK and Republic of Ireland who apply by 30th April 2024. It is completely ecumenical, and we welcome applications from a wide range of churches and theological perspectives, as well as different scientific fields. We would love to see more applications from Black and multi-ethnic churches. ECLAS director Revd Prof David Wilkinson says,
Having worked in science and theology for most of my life, I am excited at the contribution that Black and multi-ethnic churches and communities can offer. As a now elderly white male I am conscious that the area has often been dominated by elderly white males! God’s gift to us in diversity is to see things in different perspectives and in doing so seeing how my own limited perspective stops me from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace. My own vocation and ministry was encouraged and supported by Joel Edwards, CBE, who was a great friend of the work of ECLAS – he saw it as strategic for mission, but only if we were able to value and learn from the whole range of God’s people.
We realise this topic isn’t always easy or without historical pain. ECLAS co-director Revd Steve Muneza reflects:
Science, and its derivatives such as modern medicine, engineering, and information and communication technologies, have been central in shaping, and mostly improving, the lives of individuals and communities across the world. This causes me to praise God for these amazing achievements by and through his creation. However, as a Church leader and a theological educator from Africa, I am also acutely aware that while science has mostly been a positive force, it constantly presents us with at least two sources of sorrow, tension, and even discombobulation: Firstly, Science has often been an effective tool at the service of racism and selfish exploitation and destruction of fellow humans and other members of God’s creation. Secondly, Science and Faith have often, and wrongly so, been presented as mutually exclusive, or competing ways of knowing. For most Black Christians, such tensions are a constant reality. Through its multiple programmes, ECLAS aims to provide Church leaders with appropriate skills and tools to navigate such tensions and the questions they raise for their own benefit, and that of those they serve.
So, if you’d like the chance to win a grant, we’d love to hear from your church – even if it’s just to get in touch and run some questions or ideas past us.
For more details on Scientists in Congregations and how to apply, or the ECLAS project generally, head over to our website. While you’re there, why not sign up for our newsletter or check out some of our fascinating resources by ECLAS researchers and the churches and theological colleges we have worked with? Who knows: maybe you’ll find something that inspires your church to create a science-faith project of your own!
By: Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science (ECLAS)