Utah Christian clergy set to celebrate Darwin

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By Jessica Ravitz

The Salt Lake Tribune

In sermons across the nation Sunday, more than 400 Christian clergy - including six in Utah - will be honoring Charles Darwin's 197th birthday.

The collective event to remember Darwin, the 19th century naturalist whose Origin of the Species set forth the theory of evolution, has been aptly dubbed "Evolution Sunday." It is the outgrowth of a campaign to stop the division between religion and science.

"We do not see an incompatibility between teaching of evolution and our religion," said the Rev. Diana Johnson of Salt Lake City's St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, one site taking part in the commemoration. "The thing that troubles me most is that people like me, who believe in evolution, are being called atheists - and I am not an atheist."

"God works in many ways," she continued. And evolution is just one approach God took "to create our universe and all the infinite variety in it."

The movement to mark Feb. 12 began after the success of an online letter campaign, The Clergy Letter Project, which gathered signatures of more than 10,200 clergy who support the compatibility of faith and science. The idea was coordinated by Michael Zimmerman, dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, to respond to anti-evolution policies in his state. Here in Utah, Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, has floated SB96 - a bill requiring public school teachers to discuss alternatives to evolution - in the Legislature.

In addition to St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, other Utah churches listed online as being committed to mentioning Darwin Sunday are: St. John's Episcopal Church in Logan, St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Provo, Grace Episcopal Church in St. George, All Saints Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City and the Unitarian Universalist Church in Ogden.

To learn more about Evolution Sunday and The Clergy Letter Project, visit http://www. uwosh.edu/colleges/cols/religion science collaboration.htm.