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Research to support Christian faith leaders engage with science

Posted on 1 March 2023

Researchers have been awarded a five-year, £6.2million grant to support bishops and senior Christian leaders worldwide to engage with science.

Hubs will focus on theological and sociological research into Church leaders’ attitudes toward science

Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science (ECLAS) has been working to foster conversations between scientists and Church leaders since 2013. Now, in its 10th year, ECLAS’ new strategy will build on this through the creation of research hubs alongside regional partners to explore this work beyond the UK.

ECLAS is based at St John’s College, Durham University working with the University of York and the Church of England. The project works with Church leaders by organising in-depth conferences on topics such as genetics and artificial intelligence, and also funds grant programmes to equip local churches and theological colleges to engage with scientific dialogue. The team also carries out original research and public policy work. 

The next phase of the project will run from April 2023-December 2027 and will be funded by a £6.2million grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The grant will allow ECLAS to collaborate internationally and support science-theology engagement beyond the UK. 

Global community

The team are working to formalise relationships with four international partner institutions, to create a global community of reflection and action on how to equip Christian leaders across a variety of cultural, theological, and national contexts. 

Dr Amanda Rees, from the University of York’s Department of Sociology, said: “We aim to investigate new global narratives that showcase how closely science and faith have worked together in the past and present, as well as examine how these two central areas of human life can help build more hopeful futures.” 

Each partner will receive funds to distribute as awards for regional Scientists in Congregations and Science for Seminaries programmes. They will run and monitor their own programmes, in partnership with ECLAS, to address local issues and create culture change at every level of the Church. 

Local thought

Built around local scholars and institutions, each partner hub will also be a focus for theological and sociological research into Church leaders’ attitudes toward science. Hubs will investigate how narrative framing, theological context, and social context impact engagement with science.

Partnering with academic institutions in different regions of the world will ensure that research is grounded in local thought and practice, while in communication with the broader Church and society.

Joining the conversation

Revd Prof David Wilkinson, ECLAS Project Director, said: “We are very grateful to the John Templeton Foundation for this grant. It will allow us to build on the expertise we have gained in the last decade to support emerging hubs for science-religion research and engagement in parts of the world where this conversation hasn’t yet been explored.”

The new grant will begin in April, following directly on from a previous grant from the Templeton Religion Trust.

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About this research

ECLAS is now embarking on a global, five-year research and engagement project, alongside four regional partners from around the world. The programme has been enabled by a £6.2m grant from the John Templeton Foundation and at its heart will lie one central question: ‘How does context give challenges and opportunities for equipping Christian leadership in an age of science?’.

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