October 22, 2015

Dear WesleyNexus Colleague:  

Earlier this month, millions of Americans interrupted their lives to
watch a total eclipse cross the entire United States, coast-to-coast,
for the first time since 1918.  That so many Americans paused to
participate in an act of collective wonder highlights how faith and
science intersect in people’s lives and reaffirms two facts. First,
that science is good at what science does, making accurate predictions
about the natural world. Second, that wonder—expressed by Christians
and non-Christians alike—is alive and well!

The countdown to this historic and joyous event took place at the same
time that we witnessed the raw, and even violent reality, of the racial and
political divisions in the U.S. We at WesleyNexus found it hard to focus on our work in the midst of such
heartbreaking events. But, we believe that the faith-and-science dialogue has much to offer for such a time
as this.”  

The mission of WesleyNexus is to draw on the Wesleyan tradition to equip persons for the practices of
faith, mission, and ministry in a world shaped by science. The first article in this month's issue, "What the
2017 Eclipse Tells Us About Our Church Ministry," goes to the heart of why science matters in the life of
the church. The next five articles highlight different ways that people are thinking about the nature of God,
life, and the relationship between the two. Two articles on genetic engineering and one on climate change
relate to the Christian work of social justice and, in the case of genetic engineering, perhaps leads us to a
place where technology meets pastoral counseling.

We hope you will find something in this month’s newsletter that will provide insight and guidance and bring
you closer to the sacred in your life and your community.  

We continue to appreciate the collaborating groups and sponsors that helped us underwrite expenses for our
February live-streamed event, especially The Clergy Letter Project and the Institute for Religion in an Age
of Science, but also the several churches and individuals who have sent donations since January 1.  Over
the summer, we will continue to receive funds for our programs this coming fall and spring, so if you can
manage a contribution, large or small, it will help us tremendously.   WesleyNexus is a 501(c)(3) charitable,
educational organization, and we will acknowledge all gifts from individuals for tax
reporting purposes.

WesleyNexus, Inc.  
24500 Fossen Road
Damascus, MD 20872

Thanks in advance for your support.

God Bless,

Rick, Maynard, and the rest of the
WesleyNexus Board of Directors

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Guest Post: What the 2017 Eclipse Asks Us About Our Church Ministry, by Jennifer Secki Shields

In this article, Jennifer describes a local gathering to observe the 2017 eclipse, making
a beautiful connection between this natural event and her faith. She challenges us as a
faith community by asking “did we, the church, connect with our science-shaped
culture or did we miss an opportunity to point to the living God”?
Jennifer Secki Shields was trained as a biologist, and was the long-term Director of
Christian Education at Christ Crossman United Methodist Church in Virginia. She is a
member of the WesleyNexus Board of Directors and most recently the founder of
Discovery and Faith
http://www.discoveryandfaith.org/  which is affiliated with and supported by
WesleyNexus.  You can find her article

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Conversations on The Uncontrolling Love of God

On August 24 and 25, a unique Facebook event took place.  Conversations of
The Uncontrolling Love of God brings together 40 contributors to a new book
Uncontrolling Love: Essays Exploring the Love of God, providing background
and personal stories behind each contributor’s essay.  What makes this coming
together unique is the breadth of perspective and tradition brought to the discussion.  
The contributors were not limited to those within the Wesleyan tradition but included
people from progressive, traditional, evangelical and charismatic backgrounds.  The
thematic center was reflecting on Tom Oord’s recent book
The Uncontrolling Love of God where God is
understood as both fully involved but also fundamentally uncontrolling with creation.  You can find the
schedule and the contents for each discussion
here. Videos of each session are posted on each contributor’s
Facebook page and will also be posted at the “
Conversations on “The Uncontrolling Love of God” page.  
Tom Oord is a member of the WesleyNexus Advisory Board and a good friend of WesleyNexus.  Rick
Barr is a member of the WesleyNexus Board of Directors and was one of the participants.   

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American Scientific Affiliation Conference 2017 – Golden, Colorado

From all accounts that we have heard, the 76nd Annual Meeting of the
American Scientific Affiliation
, held at the end of July at the Colorado
School of Mines, was a great success, with good attendance and excellent
dialogue among participants. We call attention here to several presentations
offered by colleagues in our local dialogue network in the Washington DC area. Dr. Paul Arveson, who
continues to coordinate a Sunday discussion group called “the Wrestlers” at the National Presbyterian
Church, provided an illustrated talk on Solar Household Energy projects in developing countries, which he
called “Extinguishing the Three-Stone Fire.” Paul is a retired scientist who is now focusing energy and
resources on cookstove research and implementation projects in areas where there is severe deforestation
and refugee camps that stretch for miles and contain hundreds of thousands of people. Among the partners
for these projects, Paul lists Lutheran World Relief, the National Presbyterian Church and Rotary
International.  Another of our colleagues,
Dr. Sy Garte, who served on the WesleyNexus Board from 2014
to 2016, presented a talk on “The Teleological Biochemistry of Evolution,” Dr. Garte’s claim is that natural
selection imposes a purpose on all biological creatures, which is to achieve, by random variation, maximum
fitness, through a mechanism identified as the biochemical process of evolution. A third colleague, Dick
Fischer, presented a paper on “The Genesis 5 Patriarchs and the Sumerian King List,’ asking “Is there a
Commonality?” Another colleague, physicist
Dr. Paul H. Carr, who is in the leadership of IRAS, the
Institute for Religion in an Age of Science, with which WesleyNexus is collaborating, presented a talk called
“Balancing Economics with Ethics to Save God’s Creation.” All of the papers at the ASA Conference can
be found on this comprehensive list, with audio and the accompanying slides linked:

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Reminder: God and Human Suffering: Conversations on 21st Century Genetics and Our Shared
October 6, 2017
(from Covalance,The Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science, and Technology)
Episcopal Conference Center of Utah, 75 South 200 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
(more details to come)

This faith and science workshop on human germ-line editing is sponsored by the
University of Utah: Department of Pediatrics, Division of Medical Genetics and
UCEER Center for Excellence in Ethical, Legal and Social Implications); the Rocky
Mountain Synod and its Utah Conference of the ELCA, Mount Tabor Lutheran
Church of Salt Lake; and the Episcopal Diocese of Utah. Questions event leaders
will be pondering include: What is our shared mission as people of science, ethics,
and faith? What is the role of recent dialogue regarding germ-line editing of human embryos and in the
development of regulations that both promote the alleviation of suffering, and protect the inherent diversity
of our planet?

You can also read the Covalence journal here.   

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Science and Religion: Conflict or Consonance? By Alexander Stern

Those of us who have participated in science and religion discussions are used
to the notion that science and religion are not in conflict.  Many persons of faith
are also professionally engaged in cutting edge scientific research in a wide
variety of scientific disciplines.  What this lack of conflict means, however, is
not so easy to articulate.  Some think that they are two different spheres that
do not overlap.  Stephen J. Gould’s famous acronym NOMA or non-overlapping
magisteria (see a short article by Gould
here) claims that respectful disagreement
and distance is the best way to view the relationship.  Stern’s article presents
a perspective where “theological reasoning might yet have something to say about
our understanding of the material world and our place in it.”   Focusing on a recent conference at Notre
Dame University celebrating the work of Ernan McMullin, Stern argues for a process that aims for
consonance, not separation.  Borrowing from his own Jewish background, Stern proposes that “instead of
expanding one’s own tradition to encompass others, we should, as the Hillelite example counsels, engage
with opposing points of view in order to see the limits of our own — in order to see ourselves, to the extent
possible, as adherents of a particular tradition… Thus viewed, the conflict between science and religion
should not be extinguished, but rather, in a certain sense, stoked. Consonance lies not in a single, settled
perspective, but in refusing to settle, constantly shifting and modifying one’s perspective in an attempt to
overcome — to the extent possible — the limitations of one’s own tradition”.  The article can be found

Alexander Stern earned his doctorate in philosophy from Notre Dame and is currently a postdoctoral
researcher at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. He has written for The New York Times, The
Chronicle of Higher Education, Washington Monthly, and Humanities magazine. His book,
The Fall of
Language: Benjamin and Wittgenstein on the Aesthetics of Meaning
, will be published by Harvard
University Press in 2018.

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How Fossil Fuel Money Made Climate Change Denial the Word of God by Brendan O’Conner

While WesleyNexus does not engage in political advocacy nor endorse any political
party or philosophy, we do from time to time post interesting articles that are
controversial when they touch issues of science and religion.  The article by Brendan
O’Conner is one such article.  The story he tells is about how powerful interests
aligned with evangelical leaders combined to thwart leaders such as Richard Cizik,
National Association of Evangelicals vice president of governmental affairs
, efforts to be responsible as far
as climate change is concerned.  It is a complex story that blends scientific understanding, politics and
theology.  You can find it

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First Support for a Physics Theory of Life By Natalie Wolchover

“The biophysicist Jeremy England made waves in 2013 with a new theory that cast
the origin of life as an inevitable outcome of thermodynamics. His equations
suggested that under certain conditions, groups of atoms will naturally restructure
themselves so as to burn more and more energy, facilitating the incessant dispersal
of energy and the rise of “entropy” or disorder in the universe. England said this
restructuring effect, which he calls dissipation-driven adaptation, fosters the growth
of complex structures, including living things. The existence of life is no mystery
or lucky break, he told Quanta in 2014, but rather follows from general physical
principles and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.”

Read the rest of the article

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Gene editing: Gateway to Promised Land, or key to Pandora’s box? by Yonat Shimron

The last few months we have highlighted articles and lectures on gene editing also
known as CRISPR.  This month, we focus on an interview by Yonat Shimron of
bioethicist Arthur Caplan, the founding head of the Division of Bioethics at New
York University.  As indicated by his NYU faculty page, Caplan has worked with
and for a wide range of institutions from NIH to the International Olympic
Committee.  He is currently ethics advisor to the U.S. Department of Defense’s
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on synthetic biology, a member of
the University of Pennsylvania’s External Advisory Committee for its Orphan Disease Center, a member of
the Ethics and Ebola Working Group of the World Health Organization and an advisor to the National
Institutes of Health on organ transplantation.  In this article, he recommends three
actions that religious groups should take in response to the emergence of CRISPR.  
“First, get a scientist in to talk to you — someone who understands this and can
tell you where we’re at in engineering embryos in humans and animals. Second,
what is the obligation to pay for this on the part of the government if it’s really
oriented toward diseases and their prevention and treatment? Speak up for fair
access.  Lastly, religious groups can demand that the scientific community form the kind of oversight body
and rules I’m talking about”.  Read the whole article

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Is God Finite? By Roger Olson

Roger Olson is the Foy Valentine Professor of Theology, George W. Truett Theo-
logical Seminary, Baylor University.  He is a very influential evangelical theologian
who is a frequent commentator on Patheos.org.  In a July posting, he reaches beyond
his own tradition to engage the question “Is God finite”?  In doing so, he reaches back
in time to the writing of Edgar Sheffield Brightman and the movement that became
known as the Boston Personalists.  The Boston Personalist
s were philosophical
theologians at Methodist-affiliated Boston University and had a significant influence on theological, ethical
and philosophical thinking for nearly 100 years.  Brightman was the intellectual leader of the second
generation of Boston Personalists who’s book
The Problem of God was his most significant.  Per Olson’s
reading, God in finite in “that there is inherent in God’s eternal being  “the Given” which is a particular
nature that governs what God can and cannot do.” Clearly Brightman was no nominalist/voluntarist! He
was a realist with regard to God. He believed God has a specific nature and it includes certain limitations
that are not voluntary on God’s part. As he unpacks what this means, Olson agrees with Brightman on
some points and disagrees as well.  It is also interesting to note that he mentions Tom Oord and invites us
to think of Oord not as a process theologian but as a Boston Personalist.  The article can be found

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Science Mike brings religion, science together

Science Mike is not a preacher or theologian, but every week, he answers questions
about faith and science in ways that seekers and searchers can understand. Science
Mike, aka Mike McHargue, a member of Good Samaritan United Methodist Church
in Tallahassee, Florida, has become a major phenomenon on the internet.
His “Ask Science Mike” podcast receives upwards of 6,500 downloads a day, and he
is in the iTunes “Top 20” podcasters based on measureable internet metrics.


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Science and Religion in Huntsville, AL

Ever so often, we receive unsolicited emails from people interested in what we are doing at WesleyNexus
and invite us to join them in a local science and religion study group.  Here is information on their program.

The Discovery Center at Weatherly Heights Baptist Church is sponsoring a
"Science and Religion
from Sept 10 - Nov 19.  We have twelve knowledgeable speakers (nominally one a week), usually
on Sundays 6:00-7:30pm.  See the subjects, teachers and exact dates of our Series at  
http://www.weatherly.org/classes/  (2nd class in list).

Note that Dr. Thomas Jay Oord is one of our speakers.  The cost is $40 to attend all twelve lectures and
$10 for individual lectures.  Dr. Oord is also giving a special talk entitled "Evil and God’s Uncontrolling
Love:  A Revolutionary New Theology” at 2:00-4:00pm on Sunday Oct 15 (that is free).

We would welcome any attenders.  Our address is 1309 Cannstatt Drive, Huntsville, AL 35802.

Call Keith Noren
(256) 656-1328.

We appreciate their reaching out to us.  This looks like an interesting program with a wide range of topics.  
If you are in Huntsville, give them a call.    
August 29, 2017
By Tom Oord: Total solar eclipse
in a remote Idaho mountain location.