A Canadian church magazine has become the first North American sponsor of a travelling exhibit of the life and work of natural scientist Charles Darwin - writes Kristine Greenaway
Darwin's theory of the evolution of species has long been an occasion of conflict between scientists and Christians who claim to take the Biblical account of creation literally.
ENI reports: The exhibit, which opened at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto on 8 March, had failed to find support from the museum's usual sponsors. Museum officials said none disagreed with Darwin's theories but cited concerns about a potential backlash from Christians opposed to the idea of evolution.
The editor of the United Church Observer, David Wilson, decided the Canadian magazine should become a sponsor after learning that the exhibit had received no corporate support in other North American cities where it had been mounted.
In announcing the magazine's sponsorship, Wilson said, "There is nothing in the exhibit that threatens or diminishes religion. If anything, it shines a light on the inherent beauty and wonder of a creation that is constantly and eternally evolving. The Darwin exhibit deserves support and we're not afraid to say so."
According to public opinion surveys, significant numbers of Christians in North America oppose Darwin's theory that humans evolved from simple life forms over many millennia. In the United States, school boards in as many as 25 states have been challenged in recent years to include what is called "intelligent design" in science studies, a view that its critics say encourages students to doubt the theory of evolution.
The Rev. Paul Fayter, a professor of science and religion at York University in Toronto and a parish minister with the United Church of Canada, told Ecumenical News International, "The Observer has shown great leadership. This small gesture speaks to the centuries-long, deep and mostly supportive relationship the Church has had with the world of science."
Darwin: The Evolution Revolution runs from 8 March to 4 August in Toronto before moving to the Natural History Museum in London, Britain, in time for celebrations marking Darwin's 200th birthday in February 2009.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International  is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]