Church of England invests in science education for new priests

(Photo: Reuters)

People training for the priesthood in the Church of England are set to benefit from financial help to learn about the link between science and faith. 

As part of the multimillion pound project called Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science (ECLAS), grants will be made available to support those training for ordained ministry to learn about everything from Artificial Intelligence, to attitudes towards science and faith within the Church and wider society. 

Under the new plans, the Church of England will also be investing further in conferences to educate senior Church leaders and clergy in areas of scientific interest.

Its Scientists in Congregations will be expanded to increase the number of awards being granted for local science and faith projects in churches and cathedrals during science festivals. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said: "I am delighted that this project is continuing to build on its considerable achievement in promoting the significance of healthy and informed engagement with science to church leaders of all levels, together with resourcing them in this increasingly demanding and important task.

"This new stage of the project with its combination of research and provision of resources will further deepen church-wide understanding of the challenges science and technology pose for society, and continue to contribute to the mission, ministry and theological reflection of senior church leaders as they respond."

The ECLAS project was first launched in 2015 with funding from the Templeton World Charity Foundation and received another grant to continue its work last year from the Allchurches Trust. 

The plans for the next three years are to be funded by a £3.4 million grant from the Templeton Religion Trust and will be led by the Rev Professor David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College, Durham University, and Professor Tom McLeish, of the University of York, along with the Bishop of Kingston, Richard Cheetham and Rev Dr Kathryn Pritchard, Project Director in the Church of England's Mission and Public Affairs Division.

Bishop Cheetham said that the project had "transformative potential".

"I can see it contributing to the shaping of a future generation of church leaders who enjoy science and are unafraid of complexity, fully prepared to engage in conversation with the pressing questions raised by cutting edge research," he said. 

Prof McLeish said: "This major grant will assist in realising and deepening the re-discovery that the Church and science are natural partners, as has been the case throughout most of their history.

"Bringing theology, science and engagement with the community together is the powerful combination of ECLAS."

Dr Pritchard said: "This is an ambitious, timely, and necessary project. We are looking forward to what emerges from this rich combination of research and educational initiatives.

"In some important areas, the public science-faith conversation seems to be undergoing a shift - we want to understand precisely how and why this is happening."