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Anglican Communion Science Commission meets for the first time

Posted on: December 8, 2021 8:48 PM
Members of the Anglican Communion Science Commission meet online

The Anglican Communion Science Commission hope to develop a deeper understanding of science within the Anglican Communion.

The new Anglican Communion Science Commission (ACSC) held its inaugural meeting on 3 December, with a mission to develop a deeper understanding of science within the Anglican Communion and bring confident spiritual leadership into all global issues involving science. 

The commission is co-chaired by the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, and the Bishop of Oxford, Stephen Croft, and includes scientists, theologians and bishops from around the world.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, told the commission meeting, held online, that science was “deeply embedded in our experience of creation and of being human and of seeking to understand the world around us” but that the Church had “neglected it badly” over the centuries. 

He said the world was undergoing a period of “overwhelming and unimaginable” change with rapid advances in areas like Artificial Intelligence, and that “we need to address that world otherwise we will be completely disconnected and will not be able to talk about ethics”. 

Co-chair Bishop Stephen Croft said he hoped the commission would help the Church “hear and receive the best science” on issues like climate change, disease and technology and to “speak compassionately and creatively” into the increasingly complex dialogue around these issues. “It will help our churches speak about this from our own tradition with confidence, to a world that is grappling with these questions,” he said. 

Co-chair Archbishop Thabo Makkgoba said the Covid-19 pandemic and concerns around vaccinations had made clear many people’s distrust of science, or their view that it conflicts with their faith. He said: “The ACSC will walk alongside these people as it shows the whole ecumenical family that God can work in the tiniest material, in data, in health and in our everyday lives.” 

Those serving as Commissioners include Bishop Joseph Galgalo, former Vice Chancellor and Associate Professor of Theology at Saint Paul’s University in Limuru, Kenya; Professor Jennifer Strawbridge, Associate Professor in New Testament Studies at the University of Oxford in the UK; Professor Andrew Briggs, Professor of Nanomaterials at the University of Oxford, an expert in acoustic microscopy and materials for quantum technologies; and Bishop Emily Onyango, Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Bondo, Kenya. 

Professor Andrew Briggs, convening the meeting, said: “The vision for the ACSC is to equip bishops in the Church for courageous and confident leadership in issues involving science, through embracing science as a God-given resource for the life of faith, and offering the wisdom of faith to the impact of science. The climate emergency and the pandemic have brought home how Christian faith is realised through materially actionable love.” 

The commissioners made clear their commitment to ensuring the voices of indigenous, marginalised and young people are heard in the conversation, and that it supports people of faith working in science. They agreed the commission’s work will be rooted in issues of global justice, equity and anti-discrimination.

The ACSC will formally launch at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, England, in July and August next year, where Archbishop Justin said he hoped to see “an upswell of ambition for the Church to be committed to engaging with science in every country, province, diocese”. 

The ACSC intends to hold its first conference shortly after.