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Durham University

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Can science and religion co-exist in the 21st Century?

(17 January 2020)

A visitor to Ely Cathedral Science Festival takes a photograph of a model of a Dalek from BBC's Dr Who

Ely Cathedral Science Festival

We live in a world where science is all around us: from how we travel to social media, medicine to climate change.

But followers of just the world’s three biggest religions, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, still number about 70% of the global population.

So how can faith leaders engage with the scientific developments and ideas shaping society today?

Helping Christian leaders engage with science

Over the past few years, our researchers have been part of the Equipping Christian Leaders in an Age of Science (ECLAS) project.

The project has included:

  • A survey of 1,000 church leaders, about how they consider scientific topics;
  • Writing new Christian songs addressing scientific themes; and
  • Take Your Vicar to the Lab, which links church leaders with science laboratories.

Now, they have been awarded £3.4 million to fund a new, expanded three-year phase of the project.

Archbishop of Canterbury gives his backing

The project has the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England, who said it had considerable achievements and he was delighted at the new grant.

Justin Welby, who studied Theology our St John’s College, said: “This new stage of the project with its combination of research and provision of resources will further deepen church-wide understanding of the challenges science and technology pose for society, and continue to contribute to the mission, ministry and theological reflection of senior church leaders as they respond.”

What the project will do…

The work will have five areas of focus:

  • Academic research into how Christian churches best engage with science;
  • Conferences for church leaders on cutting-edge scientific issues;
  • Scientists in Congregations, to support professional scientists to help churches engage with science;
  • Science for Seminaries, to support science-engaged theology in UK theology colleges and courses; and
  • Policy and communications work, with the Mission and Public Affairs Division of the Church of England.

The project will be led by David Wilkinson, an astronomer and theologian, and Principal of our St John’s College.