I received an email from a college dean suggesting I sign a letter he called THE CLERGY LETTER. As is customary for email, the earlier letter is at the bottom, while my response is at the top.
I’m interested in hearing of other clergy who have received this and whether they did or did not sign on… and why.
Here’s my response…
Science and religion truly do have much in common and ought to be able to co-exist amicably. I can agree with that much of your letter, but for ME, as a non-scientist, to be the one who puts my name on the line saying that evolutionary THEORY is truly a scientific TRUTH defeats the very purpose of your letter project. As a non-scientist, why would I, as a religious leader, be needed to prove the truth of a scientific theory? The scientific method already defines what it takes to prove a theory. Let’s let the scientists do the proving. I am not qualified. Furthermore, I am NOT one who has read the literature that scientifically PROVES the THEORY to, in truth, be FACT. If such literature does exist, I would be extremely happy to have a chance to peruse such information.
I remain eager to learn more of the proofs that have moved evolution from theory to fact…
REV. DAYTON D. MIX
Here is the original email and his copy of THE CLERGY LETTER…
Dear Reverend Mix,
I am writing to you in the hopes that you will join together with thousands of your fellow clergy members. Please allow me to introduce myself and explain. I am Michael Zimmerman and, in addition to being the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University in Indianapolis, I am the founder of an organization called The Clergy Letter Project (http://www.evolutionsunday.org/). The Clergy Letter Project was created to demonstrate that religion and science can be compatible and to offer an alternative voice to those who claim that modern science must be refuted if a religious life is to be lived.
At the most recent United Methodist General Conference, participation in The Clergy Letter was overwhelmingly endorsed. Petition 80990, which states that “The United Methodist Church endorses The Clergy Letter Project and its reconciliatory programs between religion and science, and urges United Methodist clergy participation,” passed overwhelmingly (http://calms.umc.org/2008/Menu.aspx?type=Petition&mode=Single&Number=80990). As the motion urges, I hope you will opt to participate in the activities of The Clergy Letter Project.
The Clergy Letter Project has two major initiatives. First, we have collected more than 11,400 signatures from Christian clergy (including more than 40 active and retired United Methodist Bishops) on a simple two paragraph letter explaining exactly these points. You can read The Letter on our web page (http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject/religion_science_collaboration.htm) and I’ve reproduced it below my signature block as well. Second, we have an annual Evolution Weekend event in which hundreds of congregations from around the world participate by doing something to elevate the dialogue about the compatibility of religion and science. Last year’s event had 814 congregations from every state and five countries participating. Participation ranges from a sermon to a lunch time discussion and from an invited speaker to an adult education class. You can look at the list of participants at (http://www.evolutionweekend.org/). Our web pages also list more than 100 sermons that have been delivered on the topic.
I very much hope that you are comfortable signing The Clergy Letter and demonstrating the compatibility of religion and science. And, I hope you consider participating in Evolution Weekend 2009.
To add your signature to The Clergy Letter and/or to express an interest in participating in Evolution Weekend 2009 (13-15 February 2009), simply contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) by responding to this e-mail. Please tell me the city and state you would like listed with your name. Additionally, please share information about The Clergy Letter Project with friends and colleagues who might also want to participate but who may not yet have heard of us.
Thank you so very much for considering this request. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Office of the Dean
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Indianapolis, IN 46208
The Clergy Letter
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.