Story/Topp Win Grant to Help Pastors Gain Scientific Literacy

Craig Story (l) and Justin Topp

Clergy and pastors are not always informed on scientific issues, in part because religion and science have traditionally seemed at odds. But two biology professors hope to change that, thanks to a $200,000 grant from the BioLogos Foundation.

The project, “Moving Pastors Toward Scientific Literacy,” is the work of Craig Story, associate professor of biology and director of pre-health professions, and Justin Topp, associate professor of biology. With funding distributed over the next three years, the grant includes weeklong intensive courses for approximately 20 nominated church leaders from throughout the U.S. and Korea, and will be taught at Gordon cooperatively by Gordon science professors and faculty from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. Though the grant will also help fund resource materials for a general audience book as well as scholarly articles, the program’s goal is to provide pastors the tools they need to “approach issues of science and faith with greater confidence.”

“There’s a lot of misinformation about science in the Christian community,” Story said. “Pastors are often conflicted on what to think about science. So we wanted to open up a dialogue where people can talk through the issues that might seem controversial. When we talk about them, they might turn out not to be as controversial as first imagined.”The grant will help build an international network of pastors committed to increasing their scientific literacy. Story said they hope to “create a safe forum for discussion and dialogue” between pastors and working scientists who are also Christians, where together they explore perspectives of science and faith.

“It can be hard to have an informed discussion if all parties aren’t informed in all areas,” said Topp. “So our goal is to help bring pastors the skills they need to evaluate these issues on their scientific merit.”

Story and Topp also plan to chronicle and document their efforts with the objective of helping the program grow and sharing it with other institutions.

“We’d like to build a community where pastors view science learning as an acceptable endeavor,” Topp said. “Then we hope they’ll reach others with the same view.”

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