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Groundwork laid for social statement on genetics

The ELCA has begun laying the groundwork for a social statement on genetics and biotechnology, slated for presentation at the 2011 Churchwide Assembly.

Twenty specialists, including scientists, ethicists, politicians and activists, gathered for a one-time consultation hosted by ELCA Church in Society in January, and offered some themes a social statement on genetics might address.

The statement was mandated by the 2005 Churchwide Assembly. It called for a statement that speaks to “significant theological, ethical, public and pastoral challenges arising from developments in genetics.” 

“Our hope was to pinpoint key issues, provide critical perspectives, suggest themes and help indicate some realistic scope on these matters,” said Roger A. Willer, director of studies with Church in Society.

Participants discussed such issues as the moral, legal, social, pastoral and theological challenges posed to society and the church by expanding genetic science and technology; and how these challenges could be understood and interpreted by the church as they impact members’ lives, the health-care system, the natural environment, public policy, legal practices and economic activity.

There was “a lot of agreement” among participants that the statement “should lend itself to being a resource for pastoral guidance, but it should also be a resource that at the same time lends itself to corporate moral deliberation by the church [on] the whole range of genetic issues,” said Ronald W. Duty, associate director of studies with Church in Society.

“Genetics is something that surrounds us in our culture,” said Michelle L. Nickodemus, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Canal Fulton, Ohio. “People are looking for information, and they are looking for ideas about what is right and what is wrong. And they are looking to the church to help them.”


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