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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Evolution Sunday and the Clergy Letter Project


Here is some fun. My church board has submitted two overtures to the presbytery to send on to the General Assembly regarding Evolution Sunday and the Clergy Letter Project.  I honestly have no idea whether or not these will pass in our presbytery.  But the debate will be fun!

Here is the first one:
Overture to the Holston Presbytery from the Session of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, TN.

The Presbytery of Holston overtures the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to designate the 2nd Sunday in February as Evolution Sunday to recognize the influence that the Theory of Evolution has had in changing the world view of our natural environment.

Rationale:

Evolution has been wrongly viewed in some Christian communities as contrary to Christian beliefs. As a scientific theory based solidly on extensive scientific evidence, it has shaped our thinking in the natural sciences and has become the underlying theory for numerous medical advances. As a scientific theory it does not contradict the existence of God, but can be seen as a natural, creative process in God's creation.

In a recent study of why young people are leaving the church, 29% of the youth reported being discouraged by the church's antagonistic view of science, and that many young people are “turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.” The research also “shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.”

(Ref. You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church...and Rethinking Faith. David Kinnaman, 2011, The Barna Group.)

The 214th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has stated that it:

1. Reaffirms that God is Creator, in accordance with the witness of Scripture and the Reformed Confessions.
2. Reaffirms that there is no contradiction between an evolutionary theory of human origins and the doctrine of God as Creator.
3. Encourages State Boards of Education across the nation to establish standards for science education in public schools based on the most reliable content of scientific knowledge as determined by the scientific community.
4. Calls upon Presbyterian scientists and scientific educators to assist congregations, presbyteries, and the public to understand what constitutes reliable knowledge.

Other denominations have also recognized the compatibility of modern science and theology. For example, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2008 states, in part, "We recognize science as a legitimate interpretation of God’s natural world. We affirm the validity of the claims of science in describing the natural world and in determining what is scientific. We preclude science from making authoritative claims about theological issues and theology from making authoritative claims about scientific issues. We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology."

Thus it is fitting to set aside the 2nd Sunday in February as Evolution Sunday to celebrate the importance of evolution by designating the birthday (12 February 1809) of the founder of evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin, as Evolution Sunday.
And the second:
Overture to the Holston Presbytery from the Session of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, TN.

We bring this overture in the spirit of faith that joyfully acknowledges
that God brings all things into being by the Word. (W-1.2001),
that God transcends creation and cannot be reduced to anything within it (W-1.2002),
that God created the material universe and pronounced it good, and
that the material world reflects the glory of God. (W-1.3031), and,
with the understanding that in prayer we earnestly thank God for creation and providence. (W-3.3613)

The Presbytery of Holston overtures the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to join with the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Southeast Florida Diocese of the Episcopal Church, the Southwestern Washington Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and with 12,794 members of Christian Clergy, 482 Rabbis of Judaism and 251 Clergy of Unitarian Universalists in endorsing the Clergy Letter Project and the Christian Clergy Letter printed below:

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.


We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

(see: http://www.theclergyletterproject.org/Christian_Clergy/ChrClergyLtr.htm)

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