Bishop Richard Writes
Bishop Richard writes...
Despite the common image, issues of scienceand religion are not simply a minority interestactivity for a few slightly 'nerdy' specialists, buta matter which addresses some of the majorquestions of our time and takes us directly to theheart of our theological beliefs. Science infusesthe cultural air we breathe and profoundlyaffects the credibility of the Christian faith andour ability to proclaim the Gospel effectivelyin our generation. So it is deeply related to theprimary mission of the Church.
The context of the Church of England’smission is complex – there is widespreadspirituality, deep secularism, lively Christianand other faiths, all intertwined. Many peopleare disconnected from, or indifferent to, theChurch as an institution and from the basicteachings of Christian faith. Part of this is the factthat religious faith of any variety is often viewedwith suspicion and scepticism. Religious beliefsare seen as private, subjective opinions, whichcan often lead to a small minded, reactionaryand divisive view of life. By contrast science iswidely seen as giving ‘true’, objective and usefulknowledge about the way the world really is.
Science pervades the way we see reality, evenfor those who do not consider themselvesscientific in any way. The widespread andpervasive caricature of the relationship betweenscience and religion remains the conflict model.Although discredited both historically andphilosophically, this model is deeply damagingto any attempts at evangelism. There is anurgent need for a much deeper understandingof the nature of Christian faith, and of science,and of their relationship and interaction, to becommunicated very widely in both the life of theChurch and the wider world.
The major challenge in this area is tocommunicate the mountain of excellentacademic literature which has been generatedover the last thirty or more years much morewidely so that it enters the bloodstream of theChurches, the education system, the media andthe wider world. Failure to do this has meantthat there is a prevailing caricature of the conflictmodel between science and theology which isparticularly influential amongst young people.Tackling this communication challenge is notsomething for a few specialists, but a task for thewhole of the leadership of the Church. Well-handled,it is a task which a non-science specialistcould and should be able to undertake.
There is real and growing interest and awarenessof how central this area is for the Church’smission, apologetics, and understanding of theChristian faith in the 21st century.
Nationally, I am privileged to co-lead a project,‘Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age ofScience’, with Profs David Wilkinson and TomMcLeish from Durham University. The RevdDr Malcolm Brown, Director of the Church ofEngland’s Mission and Public Affairs Departmentis closely involved with this and we excellentteam including the Revd Dr Kathryn Pritchardas Director, and Dr Lydia Reid as PrincipalResearcher. There is more about the project at
In our Diocese, on Tuesday 9 January 2018,Bishop David Atkinson and I are inviting anyoneinterested in forming a Diocesan science andreligion conversation group to meet together atTrinity House, our Diocesan office, starting with alight supper at 6:15 and ending at 8:30pm. I hopethat this gathering may be a means of developingthis vital matter further within our Diocese. Ifit develops into an on-going group, its purposewould be to provide mutual encouragement,conversation between science and theology,and thinking towards ways to encourage thatconversation more widely in our churches,possibly through an annual lecture or study day.
If you would like to register for the meetingon 9 January please contact my PA, MargaretHumphries at