I am grateful to a reader for sending me information about the Clergy Letter Project. The Project began in 2004 when Michael Zimmerman, a biologist, along with several clergy in Wisconsin, became alarmed about a series of anti-evolution policies passed by the school board in Grantsburg. Scientists and clergy, working together, issued a statement affirming the teaching of evolution.
From there the group continued to grow and eventually composed a letter for clergy nationwide to sign. The organization now lists nearly 12,000 signatures from Christian clergy, along with 650 signers from other faith traditions.
The letter is so well done, and so important, I decided to post it in full. Here is the Clergy Letter Project.
“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—Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark—convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and 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 plans 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.”
This is the sort of balanced reason which this debate needs. No scare tactics, no political arm twisting, simply a straightforward affirmation of what nearly every credible scientist knows to be the truth.
The Clergy Letter Project is housed on a website at Butler University in Indianapolis, IN where Professor Zimmerman now serves as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In addition to the letter the site offers scientific resources for understanding evolution but also resources for clergy including sermons and other educational material.
It would be my hope that faith leaders in Alabama, along with educators in our schools and universities, would avail themselves of these resources. Informed clergy, and school boards not coerced by politics, will make a much better mix in our efforts to properly educate our children.
James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.