Shuck and Jive

Friday, June 06, 2014

Evolution Overture

Submitted by
John Shuck
Teaching Elder
Holston Presbytery

Teaching Elder, John Shuck, overtures the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to

1)  join with the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Southeast Florida Diocese of the Episcopal Church, the Southwestern Washington Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and with 12,794 members of Christian Clergy, 482 Rabbis of Judaism and 251 Clergy of Unitarian Universalists in endorsing the Clergy Letter Project and the Christian Clergy Letter printed below:

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

2)  to designate the 2nd Sunday in February as Evolution Sunday to recognize the influence that the Theory of Evolution has had in changing the world view of our natural environment.


This overture is brought in the spirit of faith that joyfully acknowledges

  • that God brings all things into being by the Word. (W-1.2001),
  • that God transcends creation and cannot be reduced to anything within it (W-1.2002),
  • that God created the material universe and pronounced it good, and
  • that the material world reflects the glory of God. (W-1.3031), and,
  • with the understanding that in prayer we earnestly thank God for creation and providence. (W-3.3613)

Evolution has been wrongly viewed in some Christian communities as contrary to Christian beliefs. As a scientific theory based solidly on extensive scientific evidence, it has shaped our thinking in the natural sciences and has become the underlying theory for numerous medical advances. As a scientific theory it does not contradict the existence of God, but can be seen as a natural, creative process in God's creation.

In a recent study of why young people are leaving the church, 29% of the youth reported being discouraged by the church's antagonistic view of science, and that many young people are “turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.” The research also “shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.”

(Ref. You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church...and Rethinking Faith. David Kinnaman, 2011, The Barna Group.)

The 214th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has stated that it:
  1. Reaffirms that God is Creator, in accordance with the witness of Scripture and the Reformed Confessions.
  2. Reaffirms that there is no contradiction between an evolutionary theory of human origins and the doctrine of God as Creator.
  3. Encourages State Boards of Education across the nation to establish standards for science education in public schools based on the most reliable content of scientific knowledge as determined by the scientific community.
  4. Calls upon Presbyterian scientists and scientific educators to assist congregations, presbyteries, and the public to understand what constitutes reliable knowledge.

Other denominations have also recognized the compatibility of modern science and theology. For example, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2008 states, in part, "We recognize science as a legitimate interpretation of God’s natural world. We affirm the validity of the claims of science in describing the natural world and in determining what is scientific. We preclude science from making authoritative claims about theological issues and theology from making authoritative claims about scientific issues. We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology."

The Clergy Letter Project, founded by Dr. Michael Zimmerman, and signed by nearly 13,000 Christian clergy has helped clergy and congregations present the scientific theory of Evolution in a manner that respects and engages a thinking faith. 

Thus it is fitting to endorse The Clergy Letter Project and to set aside the 2nd Sunday in February as Evolution Sunday to celebrate the importance of evolution by designating the birthday (12 February 1809) of the founder of evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin, as Evolution Sunday.

Signature 1: _________________________________

Presbytery __________________________________

Signature 2: _________________________________

Presbytery __________________________________


  1. John I read your overture on evolution. While I'm a firm believer in evolution, although like many scientific theories it's often misrepresented, I am confused by your sponsoring the overture. Your rationale for the overture states in part "God brings all things into being by the word" and "God created the material universe and pronounced it good". You don't believe that.You have written " I believe the Bible is wrong about most everything" and "I think the Bible is wrong about cosmology, history, our future Jesus and God" Haven't you cloaked your rationale in language you don't believe. To accurately reflect your beliefs shouldn't the Rationale say "Because the Bible is wrong about this and most things and science is right" Then let's vote.

    1. Members of my church created the language. It was a group effort and I fully support what we crafted. The point of this overture is not to define God or debate how the Bible is and is not true. The point is to affirm science and evolution and at affirm that affirming evolution does not have to negate one's religious expression. Glad you affirm evolution and as such I hope you will you support this overture.

  2. John,I appreciate your response. I can't support Evolution Sunday.I also can't support Theory of Relativity Sunday or String Theory Sunday. While these theories provide useful descriptions of the physical world they don't despite the ambitious title of Darwin's work or Dawkins deepest desire answer the ultimate questions of Origin and Meaning. The Bible does. I believe designating a Sunday as evolution Sunday to correspond with Darwin's birthday is inconsistent with the purpose of worship which is to " ascribe all praise and honor,glory and power to the triune God"