The School of Theology. Sewanee: The University of the South

Creation, Evolution, and God

Dr. Cynthia Crysdale, professor of Christian ethics and theology, and the University of the South will present a daylong conference addressing the question of whether the classical Christian understanding of God as unchanging, omnipotent, and beneficent is still coherent in the face of modern scientific understanding of the cosmos. The conference, based on Crysdale's and co-author Neil Ormerod's forthcoming book, Creator God, Evolving World, will answer “Yes!” Despite claims that evolutionary science rules out belief in a transcendent God, or that we must now adjust our view of God to accommodate change, these scholars insist that modern science and traditional theology are completely compatible. These issues and their implications will be the focus of a series of presentations at the conference.

Videos of the conference may be accessed here.


The conference will be held in Guerry Auditorium from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with a book signing in Convocation Hall prior to the conference. There is no fee to attend and the public is welcome. The conference is sponsored by the University Lectures Committee and the Arrington Lecture Fund.


Book Signing: Convocation Hall, 8:30 a.m.–9:15 a.m.
Presenters who have had books published recently will have them available for sale and signing.

Welcome, Guerry Auditorium, 9:30 a.m.–9:35 a.m.
Cynthia Crysdale, Professor of Christian Ethics and Theology, The School of Theology, University of the South

Session 1: Guerry Auditorium, 9:35 a.m. –10:30 a.m.
Creator God, Evolving World 
Neil Ormerod, Professor of Theology, Faculty of Theology and Philosphy, Australian Catholic University, Sydney, Australia
Questions 10:30 a.m.–10:45 a.m.

Session 2: Guerry Auditorium, 10:45 a.m. –11:45 a.m.
Evolution: Is It All An Accident?
David Haskell, Professor of Biology, University of the South
Nathan Wilson, Domain Manager, University of the South
Questions  11:45 a.m.–12:00 Noon

Lunch break, on your own: 12:00 Noonn–1:15 p.m.

Session 3: Guerry Auditorium, 1:15-2:15
God-talk: What kind of Creator Do We Have?
John Haught, Senior Research Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University
Rebecca Abts Wright, C.K. Benedict Professor of Old Testament, The School of Theology, University of the South
Questions 2:15 p.m.–2:30 p.m.

Session 4: Guerry Auditorium, 2:30- 3:30
Purpose And Providence -- Where Is It All Headed And Does God Care?
Robert MacSwain, Assistant Professor of Theology and Christian Ethics, The School of Theology, University of the South
Tam Parker, Associate Professor of Religion, University of the South
Questions  3:30 p.m.–3:45 p.m.

Coffee and Tea Break in Convocation Hall, 3:45- 4:15

Session 5: Guerry Auditorium, 4:15 p.m.–5:15 p.m.
What Difference Does it Make? -- Implications for Lived Christianity
Mollie Roberts, M.Div. Student at The School of Theology, University of the South
Louisa T. Parsons, Rector, St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church, Ooltewah, TN
Questions 5:15 p.m.–5:30 p.m.


Cynthia S.W. Crysdale is professor of Christian ethics and theology. Before coming to Sewanee, Crysdale taught for 18 years at the Catholic University of America. There she served as associate dean for undergraduate programs at the University’s School of Theology and Religious Studies. Crysdale graduated from York University in Toronto, Canada, with a B.A. degree in psychology. She earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in theology from St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto.

Neil James Ormerod is the professor of theology at the Australian Catholic University. He has worked professionally as a theologian for more than 25 years. He is widely published in Australia and internationally with articles in leading international journals. Prior to taking up a career in theology he taught mathematics. His theological education was with the Melbourne College of Divinity.

David George Haskell is professor of biology at the University of the South. He received his B.A. from the University of Oxford and Ph.D. from Cornell University. His research and teaching examine the conservation, evolution and ecology of animals. His book, The Forest Unseen (2012, Viking/Penguin), was hailed by E. O. Wilson as “new genre of nature writing, located between science and poetry, in which the invisible appear, the small grow large, and the immense complexity and beauty of life are more clearly revealed.”

Nate Wilson is the domain manager at the University of the South. In that capacity he is responsible for many land management decisions across the 13,000 acre Sewanee campus known as the Domain. Prior to his work for the University, he was a consultant in wildlife biology and forestry on the Cumberland Plateau where he worked primarily with private landowners and conservation NGOS. Nate holds degrees in natural resources management, forestry, and wildlife ecology.

John F. Haught is senior fellow, science & religion, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University.  He was formerly professor in the department of theology at Georgetown University (1970-2005) and chair (1990-95).  His area of specialization is systematic theology, with a particular interest in issues pertaining to science, cosmology, evolution, ecology, and religion. He received his Ph. D. from Catholic University. Haught has authored numerous books, articles, and reviews. He lectures internationally on many issues related to science and religion.

Rebecca Abs Wright is the C. K. Benedict Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Hebrew at The School of Theology. She is an ordained United Methodist minister who loves to teach. Her teaching style not only helps students understand the Old Testament in its historical context, but also how it is relevant to the church today.

A philosophy graduate of Liberty University (B.A., 1992), Robert MacSwain studied theology at Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1995) and the University of Edinburgh (M.Th., 1996).  His M.Th. thesis, supervised by Fergus Kerr OP, was on Martin Luther and St. Thomas Aquinas as readers of the Apostle Paul. After teaching religion at Brooks School in North Andover, MA, he entered the ordination process in the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina and completed his clinical pastoral education at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. This was followed by a year of Anglican studies at Virginia Theological Seminary, and an internship as research assistant to Archbishop George Carey at Lambeth Palace.

Tam Parker is associate professor and chair of the department of religion at the University of the South. She teaches in the area of social ethics, Jewish and holocaust and religious violence studies. Her current project analyses the relation of genocidal  discourses and the building and dismantling of cultures of atrocity.

Mollie M. Roberts is a current seminarian in her senior year at the School of Theology of the University of the South.  Originally from Florida, she has both a bachelors in accounting and an MBA from the University of Central Florida.  Roberts came to seminary from the Diocese of Georgia following an extensive business career which included being a business owner and ten years as a professor in the college of business administration at Savannah State University.

Louisa Tucker Parsons is currently rector of St. Francis of Assisi in Ooltewah, Tenn.  She received her M.Div. from The School of Theology in 2002, 25 years after graduating in the fourth undergraduate class of women accepted at Sewanee with a B.A. in economics. A native East Tennessean, she has served as curate for St. James Episcopal Church in Knoxville and assistant rector of Grace Church in Chattanooga. She also served as hospital chaplain for Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, and worked for five years was a chaplain for Hospice of Chattanooga.