Philip Hefner, a Lutheran theologian known for his work in connecting scientists with religious thinkers in dialogue, died on April 27, 2024, at his home in Chicago. He was 91.

Hefner established the Chicago Center for Religion and Science in 1989 and taught a long-running class at the Lutheran School, The Epic of Creation, which featured scientists from neighboring University of Chicago as lecturers. Hefner served as the editor of the Center’s journal, Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, for two decades.

Through that work he was able to connect not only with other theologians, but also with scientists at the nearby University of Chicago. Those scientists, many of whom lectured at the seminary, were forever welcome to a broader dialogue that would impact them forever.

One of those scientists was fellow Lutheran and astrophysicist Grace Wolf-Chase. She recently recalled how Hefner was intrigued by the multidisciplinary nature of astrobiology.

In thinking about the questions of how life began and evolved, she said, we are forced to consider more than just the science but also to consider the urgency of creation care, matters of eco-justice and how to exercise responsible stewardship of our world.

“May Phil’s legacy continue to help guide us toward thinking about what it means to be a ‘created co-creator’ in a creation that is indescribably larger, older, and more diverse than we could even begin to imagine just a few generations ago!” Wolf-Chase wrote in a reflection of her interactions with Hefner that began in the late 1990s both in person and an ongoing email dialogue that sparked mutual inspiration for their shared endeavors in faith and science.

This issue we are dedicating to Hefner and republish one of his most recent essays. I also share some of my own reflections on my experiences with a theologian and poet like no other who supported my curiosity and so many others.

In our news section this month, we catch up with some developments at the ELCA as well as some research related to faith and health.

Let me leave you with one of my favorite Hefner quotes: “We are called to be the earth’s storytellers. We have the mandate of imagination that is entrusted to us as the only beings capable of imagination. The challenge is to recognize the revelation of science, showing us what God has done, what God wants to do now and what God intends to do.”

Susan Barreto, Editor

Susan Barreto
Susan Barreto

Susan is an author with a long-time interest in religion and science. She currently edits Covalence, the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology’s online magazine. She has written articles in The Lutheran and the Zygon Center for Religion and Science newsletter. Susan is a board member for the Center for Advanced Study of Religion and Science, the supporting organization for the Zygon Center and the Zygon Journal. She also co-wrote Our Bodies Are Selves with Dr. Philip Hefner and Dr. Ann Pederson.

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