|Dear WesleyNexus Colleague,
September marked a significant milestone for WesleyNexus. On September 19-20, 2014,
WesleyNexus hosted the first ever science and religion discussion retreat at the West River United
Methodist Center near Annapolis, Maryland. Given the limited funds available to us for an activity of
this kind and the requirement of a minimum of twenty attendees by the Center, we took a significant
leap of faith by taking on this initiative. I am happy to report that it was a smashing success! Thirty
five people attended with twenty seven spending the night in accommodations that were quite
comfortable but more akin to a college dorm than a penthouse at the Ritz. We gathered Friday
evening with folks battling the Friday traffic as they exited the Baltimore and Washington urban
centers for the retreat on the Chesapeake bay. After checking in
and getting to know each other’s names, home towns and
congregational affiliation, we settled in to watch Brian Swimme’s
“Journey of the Universe: An Epic Story of Cosmic, Earth and
Human Transformation.” This one hour video expertly produced
by Yale University historian of religions Mary Evelyn Tucker
covers the cosmic story of our evolving universe from the big
bang to the symbol using, meaning-seeking sapiens that we are.
After the film, we had a short discussion reflecting on the themes
of the film. It was not surprising that our group noticed a significant
gap in the presentation of the development of human species: the failure to mention the ubiquity of the
sacred across languages and cultures going back to prehistoric times. It turns out that this was a
deliberate choice on the part of Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker. In conversation with one of
our invited discussion leaders, the choice was made by the producers to limit the references to religion
as such in order to reach and hopefully awaken the sense of the cosmic story in an audience that is
increasingly secular, theologically uniformed and frequently confused about how the cosmic story can
be told credibly within communities of faith. It appears that those of us interested in the science and
religion dialogue have a lot to do in presenting this story to our constituents.
The next day, after beginning with worship, (the order of worship can be found here) we were graced
by the introductory keynote given by Dr. Connie Bertka, who serves as Chair of the Societal Impact
Committee at the Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian Institution, and lecturer at Wesley
Theological Seminary, in Washington DC. More of a conversation than a lecture, Dr. Bertka
presented insights from her experience as an astro-biologist, having served for years at the Carnegie
Institiution and now teaching science and religion courses to future ministers in a Protestant seminary.
(We will be posting Dr. Bertka’s Powerpoint presentation when it is available.) This discussion set the
table for breakout sessions that covered themes from cosmology, to biology to neuroscience. Each
participant was able to attend two sessions with 6-8 persons in each group. Because each session was
interactive and dynamic, a summary of each session is not available but from personal experience I
can attest to the value of both the content and the interpersonal transactions. I learned a great deal and
made new friends at the same time. The outline of each discussion session can be found here. After
attending two sessions, we came together for a final breakout to discuss future options within the
Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church on how to reach young persons
within the faith and science dialogue. The latter session was led by David Hosey, chaplain intern, the
Associate for Campus Ministry at Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church in Washington,
DC, who works every day with students from the American University.
We finished the day with a short worship service with the recognition that we all are responsible to
extend the dialogue to those within the United Methodist Church, those within the Wesleyan tradition
and even beyond, who may be enriched in both knowledge and faith. At WesleyNexus, we perceive
our mission to enable this outreach as best we can. We invite you to join us in this effort.
Well, that’s all for now. Please let us know what you and/or your group might be
planning in the months ahead so that we can post your meeting schedule and topics in our newsletter.
Next month we will have more references and resources. Until then, please remember that we are
dependent on you, our participants, for donations to cover expenses for activities like our West River
retreat. Please consider supporting us with a contribution either through the PayPal DONATE link
below, or, by sending a check to:
24500 Fossen Road
Damascus, MD 20872
We will use these funds to further our efforts to promote the dissemination of resource material
promoting the dialogue between sound science and religion across the country.
Rick Barr, Secretary,
WesleyNexus, Board of Directors
ASA present Dr. Roy Clouser on September 27, 2014
The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the American Scientific Affiliation held its first Fall 2014 meeting on
Saturday evening, September 27th. Dr. Roy Clouser, retired Professor of Philosophy at the College of
New Jersey, presented a talk on "Faith, Reason, and Certainty." We often hear it said that science and
religion are opposites because science proceeds by making rational theories and testing them, while
religion is a matter of blind faith. Roy, in reference to a chapter in a forthcoming book, examines how
the New Testament actually uses the term "faith," arguing that there are three distinct senses for this
term in the NT, none of which describes an act of blind trust, belief beyond the evidence, or belief
against the evidence. In fact, one of the three uses - the one used for belief that God is real - means
"certainty derived from experience," and is described in the same terms that had been used for
centuries to speak of self-evident truth. Roy also reviewed why so few Christian thinkers have pointed
this out, and defends the NT's view of self-evident truth over against the traditional view of Western
Mark Schaefer's sermon at American University: “What’s the Deal with Christians Not
Believing in Science?”
Mark Schaefer, American University’s full time United Methodist
Chaplain, gave a sermon on September 28, 2014 in the Kay Spiritual
Life Center tackling what he sees as a significant threat to Christianity,
the perception that “Christianity as a whole seems to have a reputation
as being anti-science”. He addresses three primary reasons for this
attitude: 1) The need for scriptural certainty, 2) The need to defend
God, and 3) The need to feel we have a place in the cosmos.
The Christian faith however, calls us to use reason and our ability
to learn. “Learning and thinking are meant to be important spiritual
disciplines” and there is nothing about science that should be detrimental to faith. To the contrary,
when one understands science, “it should provide even more wonder, even more depth into the faith
we already have”. You can read Rev. Schaefer’s sermon here.
Mark Schaefer has degrees in Russian Language and Literature from the State University of New
York at Albany before moving to Washington to attend the George Washington University Law
School. Mark practiced law in the District for five years before beginning his theological studies at
Wesley Theological Seminary. After graduating from Wesley, he was appointed by The United
Methodist Church to serve as AU’s full time United Methodist Chaplain. He also serves as campus
ministry team leader for the Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Mark has been teaching as an adjunct professor in the Philosophy and Religion Department since fall
2006. He is also a summer instructor in New Testament at neighboring Wesley Theological Seminary.
We thank David Hosey, the chaplain intern at Metropolitan UMC, for informing us of this sermon.
Michael Dowd: Thank God For Evolution
It has been over a decade since Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow
hit the road and became “evolutionary evangelists,” telling the story
of the Epic of Evolution to whoever was willing to hear. His book,
Thank God for Evolution has been praised by many across the
intellectual and religious spectrum including six Nobel Prize winners
representing physics, medicine, and economics. We who inherit and
stand within the Wesleyan tradition can appreciate the dedication that
Michael and Connie have given to their itinerant calling. Currently
traversing faith communities in Ohio, they will be moving into Western
Pennsylvania before heading south to the Washington, DC area the end of October. They will be in
Frederick, MD on October 26, swoop down to Silver Spring, MD the next day and then return to
Frederick on the 28th. A schedule of all their events can be found here. I encourage all who are able
to find a location near you and attend. To get a preview, check out Michael’s TEDx videos here. .
Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori: Barbara Ehrenreich’s Theophany
In this review of the new book by the well-known author, Barbara
Ehrenreich, Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate
of the Episcopal Church, invites people of faith to engage the challenge
of Ms. Ehrenreich, a self-professed atheist. Schori states that Living
with a Wild God “is a brutally clear and honest example of the kind
of account claimed by many of the unchurched and unreligious around
us today. If you want to understand why Christianity struggles to explain
itself, read this. If you want a glimpse of the “spiritual but not religious”
milieu in which we live as Western Christians, read this. If you want a deeper sense of the struggles
between Western and Global South Christianity, read this. If you want to re-encounter and re-enliven
your own spiritual journey, read this“. Given that the world we live in and the people we encounter
seem to echo Ehrenreich’s perspective, we in the science and religion dialogue need to understand and
engage this perspective as well. Schori closes her review with an invitation: “Her ascription of agency
may not use the same language, but the results have some real coherence with what the Church is out
to be and do. Read and enter the conversation — and see what sorts of cardiac conversion might
result!” I agree. I invite you to read this review here and make your own assessment.
Preparing for Discovery: A Rational Approach to the Impact of Finding Microbial, Complex,
or Intelligent Life Beyond Planet Earth – A Symposium at the John W. Kluge Center at the
Library of Congress, September 18-19, 2014.
Last month we gave you a “heads up” on this Symposium, and we hope that many of you connected
via the live stream to catch the lectures and presentations. Several from our local science and religion
discussion groups were in attendance, including our President Dr. Maynard Moore. Dr. Moore reports
that the Symposium was an extraordinary event. It was organized under the direction of Dr. Stephen J.
Dick, who serves until October 1 as the Blumberg NASA /Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology.
Dr. Dick provided a comprehensive lecture the first morning on “History, Discovery, Analogy” that set
the stage for the entire Symposium. Dr. Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute, presented initial keynote
remarks, and the remainder of the two days featured three hour sessions with four panelists on each
topic, including scholars from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the Technical University of
Berlin, The Vatican Observatory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and the Center for Theological
Inquiry at Princeton. Since the Symposium's end, Dr. Dick has announced that the proceedings will be
published as a book (some months from now) but a number of the presentations will be available on
the Library of Congress website, as they become available. We encourage everyone to log on to that
website: www.loc.gov/kluge and blogs.loc.gov/kluge and follow on facebook: @klugeCtr.
Event: Capital Science Evenings
Capital Science Evenings are free and open to the public and
last approximately one hour. No tickets are required but registration
is recommended. Seating is on a first-come, first served basis.
All programs are held at the Carnegie Institution, 1530 P Street, NW.
Click here for more information.
Washington Theological Consortium 42nd Annual Faculties' Convocation, Sept 29, 2014
The Washington Theological Consortium, which brings together
faculty and Deans at some twenty theological institutions in the
greater Washington DC area, held an extremely successful, well
attended Symposium hosted by the School of Theology and
Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America on
September 29, 2014. The theme of this 2014 Symposium was “Reframing Theological Anthropology
for an Ecological Age,” and featured a stimulating lecture by Dr. Janie Schaefer, Professor of
Theology and Ethics at Marquette University. One of her most insightful books is Theological
Foundations for Environmental Ethics, and she has written extensively on the Climate Crisis,
Environmental Justice, and the engagement of Theology with the natural sciences. The Symposium
featured a series of discussion groups, one of which featured Wesley Seminary Professor Dr. Beth
Norcross (who also serves on the Advisory Board of WesleyNexus), who is founder of the Green
Seminary Initiative, and leads several other initiatives in ecological justice. The Symposium was held
under the auspices of Dr. Gay Byron, Howard University School of Divinity and Chair of the
Consortium Council of Academic Deans, and the program was organized by Dr. Larry Golemon,
WTC Executive Director.
|September 30, 2014