Online conference to focus on how science and church communities can cooperate amid COVID-19

Strengthening the faith of churches through science will be the focus of a virtual conferenceJune 5 hosted by Rice University’s Religion and Public Life Program (RPLP).

The event, scheduled for 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. CDT, will cover a variety of topics related to Christianity and science in today’s world, including how to foster social justice and equality in the scientific workforce, human reproductive genetic technologies, the beginning of life and human origins, and what it means to be human. In addition, conference sessions will provide practical information for pastors and lay leaders on bridging divides between scientific and faith communities in the time of COVID-19.

“We are holding this conference specifically to bring together Christian communities and scientists to use research to foster collaboration between the two,” said Elaine Howard Ecklund, director of the RPLP and the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences. “Christian communities are the most numerous form of religious organization in the U.S. and the religious tradition that has often been placed in most tension with science. Now – in the time of COVID-19 – getting faith and scientific communities to cooperate and help one another has never been more important.”

Speakers and facilitators for the event will include Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Theological Seminary; Praveen Sethupathy, associate professor in the department of biomedical sciences at Cornell University; Harvey Clemons, pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Houston; Greg Cootsona, religion scholar at California State University, Chico; Jonathan Hill, sociologist at Calvin University; Rice alumnus Lee Hsia, a pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church Downtown; Nichole Phillips, religion and sociology scholar at Emory University; and Gus Reyes, director of the Christian Life Commission, Baptist General Convention of Texas.

The conference, made possible by a Templeton Religion Trust grant, is part of an ongoing RPLP project designed to provide Christian leaders and constituents with empirically based, accessible social scientific evidence for how to integrate faith and science to answer questions about human purpose, meaning and ultimate reality. Another core objective of the project is to bring a variety of new voices to the conversation around faith and science – men and women; black, Latino and Asian Christians; and both pastors and lay people.

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