|Dear WesleyNexus Colleague,
The summer is winding down and the routines that occupy our days will soon settle in like the
coolness of fall. We at WesleyNexus hope your summer has been refreshing, renewing and even a bit
transforming. I finished up my summer travel with a trip to Colorado to attend a music festival called
Folks Festival. It is held every year in the small town of Lyons, a town known in bluegrass circles as
the epicenter for bluegrass and traditional music in this country.
I went with my son and his wife and did something I have never
done before. We signed up to be festival volunteers and work
four hours each day in return for free admission. We were
assigned a very non-Methodist thing to do… serve beer and wine
to hundreds of Festivarians, as the festival goers call themselves.
Through this volunteer activity, I engaged in conversations with dozens of people, inquiring where
they came from, how many years they attended Folks Festival (some have attended for over a decade)
and what motivated them to endure the 100 degree heat that pounded us the entire three days of the
festival. Most of them responded that it was the spirit of the place, the sense of a sort of grace that
renewed their souls and reignited their sense of hope in community. It was like an old Methodist camp
meeting for the “spiritual but not religious” but with music, dancing, drinking and I suspect, a bit of
cohabiting. In spite of these seeming contradictions with the Methodist tradition, I could not help
feeling that Wesley’s notion of prevenient grace was alive and active within all those attending. Also
through my conversations, I realized that one of the main stumbling blocks preventing people from
reengaging with their religious roots is the perception that religion has become a fantasy, an ideology
that is against nature, against science and against the very form of experience that draws people to the
Lyons festival. If faith in God is to be reborn in these folks, it must grapple with the issues of science
and religion and develop credible models that integrate these two pillars of wisdom. As S. Paul
Schilling wrote many years ago, we need not search for God as though he were somewhere else. He
is everywhere. In our daily experiences of depth, dependence, meaning, and social responsibility, and
outreach toward the future in hope we are already in his presence. If we at least hold ourselves open
to the possibility that this is true and act upon it, we may discover God is no longer absent or even
present incognito, but a living reality in our own experience here and now. (God Incognito, p. 202)
Then perhaps we will find God in the midst of our science, in our art and even in the midst of a music
festival in the middle of the Colorado foothills.
As I mention every month, we are dependent on you, our participants, for donations to cover expenses
for these activities. WesleyNexus is a certified 501(c)(3) charitable organization, so please consider
supporting this initiative with a contribution either through the PayPal DONATE link below, or, by
sending a check to:
24500 Fossen Road
Damascus, MD 20872
We will use these funds to further our efforts to promote the dissemination of resource material
promoting the dialogue between sound science and religion across the country.
Rick Barr, Secretary,
WesleyNexus, Board of Directors
Update: WesleyNexus Retreat/Discussion, September 19-20, 2014
Registrations for the WesleyNexus retreat on September 19-20, 2014
at the West River Center near Annapolis, Maryland has been open
for a few weeks now and we have already registered the minimum
required by the Center. There are still plenty of spots open, however,
so I invite you to check out the website here and register for this
wonderful event. As I mentioned last month, our Keynote speaker on Saturday morning will be Dr.
Connie Bertka. Connie has many years working in the science and religion arena and is currently
Adjunct Professor at Wesley Theological Seminary and is the Co-Chair of the Broader Social Impacts
Committee in the Hall of Human Origins program at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural
History. The rest of the day will be in discussion workshops on a variety of topics such as:
• The story of evolution as a framework for religious thinking.
• How can I speak about evolution within a faithful perspective?
• The paradigm of creation as a framework for scientific thinking.
• What does “created in the image of God” mean in the 21st century?
• How do new discoveries re: DNA impact our thinking about humanity?
• What does brain science have to say about our self-identity as humans?
• How is our witness as Christians impacted by our taking science seriously?
• Science findings re: human identity for church decision making.
• The perspective of young people that the church is “anti-science.”
Our discussion leaders identified so far are:
Dr. Gordon Cragg, Ph.D. with a focus on international collaboration in the discovery of novel
molecules from nature for the treatment of human diseases, and two decades of university teaching,
most recently served as Chief of the Natural Products Branch at the National Cancer Institute at NIH
in Bethesda. He is active as a layman at North Bethesda UMC.
Dr. Geoff Kaiser, holding a baccalaureate and a master's degree in natural sciences and a Ph. D. in
elementary particle physics from Cambridge University in UK, is best know for work on the
atmospheric dispersion of radiotoxic materials. Professionally he completed assignments with the UK
Atomic Energy Authority and in the US with DOE, NRC, and EPA as well as the last 25 years with
the Science Applications International Corporation (now Leidos). He is active as a layman at
Fairhaven UMC in Darnestown.
Dr. Gary Sherman, MS, DVM, PhD with expertise in reproductive, microbial, molecular and
evolutionary biomedical science; National Program Leader for Veterinary Science and Agrosecurity at
USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture; Three decades of service in academic and Federal
science positions. Member of Oakdale-Emory UMC.
Rev Dottie Yunger, Associate Pastor at Metropolitan Memorial UMC in Washington DC, earned a BS
in Marine Biology and worked for over ten years at the Smithsonian; she has an MDiv and MTS with
an emphasis in environmental justice and the Hebrew Bible.
West River is a United Methodist Church Conference Center and camp with 45 beautiful acres on the
shores of the Chesapeake Bay just 20 miles south of Annapolis, MD. Lodging for guests is in adult
accommodations in a modern Conference Center, generally two persons per room, with bath rooms.
Delicious meals are prepared by a professional staff. There is a maximum of 50 persons for this
retreat so please register early. Acceptance is on a first come, first person basis. Click here to register.
Liberating the Holy Name: A Free-Thinker Grapples with the Meaning of Divinity
E. Maynard Moore, President of WesleyNexus has written a dust jacket endorsement
of the recently published book, Liberating the Holy Name: A Free-Thinker Grapples
with the Meaning of Divinity by Daniel Spiro. Daniel Spiro “works full-time as an
attorney and has devoted his career to investigating and litigating against corporate
fraud. He coordinates the Jewish-Islamic Dialogue Society of Washington, DC, and
the Washington Spinoza Society, both of which he co-founded. He is active in working
for peace in the Middle East, and is the author of ''The Creed Room'' (2006) and
''Moses the Heretic'' (2008).” (Amazon.com) Here is Maynard’s endorsement:
Liberating the Holy Name is an extraordinary book, a rare undertaking that succeeds in filling the
immense gap between the negativism of the flaming atheists and the intransigent fundamentalists.
Spiro writes as one who has spent the better part of five decades asking the deep questions of life
that we all ask, and now puts it all together in a philosophical approach by embracing the
uncertainty that both Socrates and Spinoza would applaud. It is an inquiry with all the intellectual
tools at our disposal and a celebration of the journey that honors the best in contemporary thinking.
How can reading a book with a new question arising from every answer be such an intellectual joy?
You have to try it and discover for yourself.
Additional endorsements by William Abraham, Michael Lerner and Zulfiqar Ali Shah can be found
NASA/Library of Congress Astrobiology Symposium: Preparing for Discovery
Astrobiology has revealed new discoveries about our
world and the solar system. Living organisms thrive in
harsher environments on Earth than we ever previously
imagined. Microbial biodiversity and extremophile life are now known to be ubiquitous and abundant.
Beyond Earth, science has identified more than 1,400 exoplanets. That life thrives in multifarious
conditions, coupled with these potentially habitable exoplanets and the detection of life-giving elements
on numerous moons on asteroids, means we must face the possibility that simple or complex
organisms may be discovered beyond Earth. How might we prepare for such a discovery?
On September 18-19, The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress will host a discussion
with a number of distinguished scientists, historians, philosophers and theologians from around the
world for a two-day symposium to explore how we prepare to face new knowledge that may
challenge our very conceptions of life and our place in the universe. The program will be led by Dr.
Steven J. Dick, Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology. Dr. Dick is a
well-known astronomer and historian of science, serving previously as the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair
in Aerospace History at the National Air and Space Museum and as the NASA Chief Historian and
Director of the NASA History Office.
A live stream option is available for those who are not able to attend in person. Information on the
program can be found here.
Jim Miller to Step Down as the Coordintor of the Ecumenical Roundtable Coordinator of the
The Ecumenical Roundtable on Science, Technology, and the Church (ERT) is an interdenominational
association of persons representing initiatives within various Christian denominations in the United
States. They seek to assist their faith communities in giving more deliberate attention to developments
in science and technology, to consider the significance of these developments for the thought and
practices of their churches, and to explore constructive engagement with the scientific and
technological communities. WesleyNexus has been a supporter of the exhibit for the last three years.
That exhibit has been coordinated for many years by Jim Miller who is on the Advisory Board of
WesleyNexus. Next year, 2015, will be a transition year for the ERT's exhibit at the annual meeting of
the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Starting in 2015, new participants
will be doing the work that Jim Miller has done so faithfully. The first will be Bob Keefer,
Presbyterian Minister and longtime participant in The Presbyterian Association on Science,
Technology and the Christian Faith.
To the right you will find
pictures of the most recent
AAAS exhibit in Chicago.
Though the United Methodist
Church, nor any denomination
within the Wesleyan tradition,
does not officially belong to the
ERT, we at WesleyNexus applaud
their work and hope that one day the UMC and others will be willing to officially set aside time, talent
and treasure to participate in the annual conference that takes place every year a few weeks after
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