Australian biologist Charles Birch, co-recipient this week...


Australian biologist Charles Birch, co-recipient this week of the $684,000 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, said he will donate part of his share to a religious philosophy center based at the School of Theology at Claremont.

The donation was confirmed by John B. Cobb Jr., founder-director of the 17-year-old Center for Process Studies, who said it will be used to establish an endowment fund. “It gives us much greater confidence that we can keep going,” said Cobb.

The 1990 Templeton Prize was presented Tuesday in London by Prince Philip to Indian lawyer Baba Amte, 75, a Hindu whose work for the sick crosses India’s religious divisions, and Birch, 72, a retired Sydney professor who has explored links between science and religious faith.


The Australian was praised as an “original thinker (who) uses modern discoveries in natural science to expand man’s understanding of God as designer and creator of the universe and its creatures.”

Birch said he will use his prize to fund an annual lecture at the University of Sydney on human aspects of science and technology and a Christian social ethics project in Geneva as well as helping the Claremont center. The Methodist layman has served as vice chairman of the World Council of Churches’ Church and Society committee.

Birch, co-author with Cobb of a book titled “The Liberation of Life,” is scheduled to appear at a seminar from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the School of Theology at Claremont.

Cobb said he was not free to disclose the amount of the expected donation.

Some concern had arisen on the research center’s future because of the approaching retirement of Cobb, a world-renowed theologian. Cobb retires from the seminary faculty next month. Although he will stay with the center and do some teaching in Claremont, he will also lighten some of his duties.

Process studies focus on the philosophy of the late mathematician-physicist Alfred North Whitehead and other scholars who have interpreted and applied his insights to a unifying theory of life, the nature of deity and the universe.

The center has attempted to apply Whitehead’s metaphysical views in conferences and seminars to practical problems of interfaith dialogue, environmental problems and, most recently, male sexuality. The center also publishes a scholarly journal and is working on a film project for television, Cobb said.



The Rev. Frederick J. Beebe, who will turn 64 in October, will retire Jan. 1 as executive of the 122,200-member Presbyterian Synod of Southern California and Hawaii. Beebe, a former pastor in Claremont, has held the top synod post since 1978. The synod, which embraces 310 congregations, will convene next Saturday at Westminster Gardens in Duarte to conduct its first semiannual meeting this year.


The interfaith VISN cable television network, launched in September, 1988, is reportedly seen, for at least part of each day, on 10 cable systems in Southern California. Last Saturday, about 50 people from some of the 22 religious bodies that contribute to VISN’s nationwide programming met in Pasadena to coordinate lobbying efforts to expand the list. Nelson Price, newly elected president and chief executive officer of the New York-based network, spoke to the meeting. Interfaith cooperation is still a new venture for some organizers, however. Because the gathering was on a Saturday, Jewish and Muslim representatives did not attend. A second planning meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 7.

The Protestant Hour, a long-running radio program featuring sermons by prominent ministers, has reappeared at least temporarily in Los Angeles on KLAC at 6:30 a.m. Sundays. The current speaker is the Rev. John A. Huffman Jr., pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, whose 12-week series began Easter Sunday.