The National Council of Churches named a multidisciplinary Human Genetics Policy Development Committee and a “blue-ribbon complement of Senior Sages” to lead the ecumenical Christian community’s work on issues of human genetic technology for the until 2006.
The newly named committee will not only replace the Council’s now outdated 1986 policy, “Genetic Science for Human Benefit,” but will serve as a guide to both educational and public outreach in the field of science.
“Many of us can scarcely imagine the ways in which new biotechnologies will impact human life,” said the Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lindner, NCC Deputy General Secretary for Research and Planning, New York City, who is staffing the NCC’s work on human genetic technology.
“Nearly everyone agrees that the use of biotechnologies to alleviate human misery, disease and suffering ought to be encouraged,” she said. “Likewise, a majority of Christians would have some reservations about the unbridled application of technologies to human life in ways that alter the nature of human life itself-for example, the issue of designer babies.”
The policy development committee will offer theological and ethical reflections on the issues of human genetic technology. The team will also consider issues on equality of access and morality.
“With science moving so fast, at a time when church staffs are downsizing, few churches are able to keep up and develop policy relative to the emerging technology,” said Dr. Lindner, a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). “For these reasons, the NCC’s effort, with the outstanding expertise that we have been able to assemble, clearly is being welcomed.
“Whether you are talking about a Washington office advocating for regulatory standards or a pastor quietly counseling a couple in their home, the Christian church, writ large and small, has need of policy guidance. We hope to be able to offer that in some measure, with an eye toward both justice and pastoral care.”
Much of the funding to the effort will come from NCC member communions ($15,000). The rest will come from the CSFund ($25,000) and the Appleton Foundation ($35,000).
The 16 men and women who make up the newly named NCC committee include ethicists, a pediatrics genetics counselor, a genetic scientist, educators, seminarians, theologians, clergy and denominational and ecumenical leaders. Committee members represent a diversity of ages and racial/ethnic backgrounds, and include a person with disabilities.
The complementary consulting group of “Senior Sages” will offer their high stature and long experience in the ethical field to assist and guide the primary group.
Ms Clare Chapman, an NCC vice president who serves as Executive Director of Finance and Administration for the United Methodist Church General Commission on Church Unity and Interreligious Concerns, New York City, has been named chair of the policy development committee.
“I have long been interested in human genetics issues, going back to my time in law school where I studied the legal aspects of these issues,” she said. “This is one area where the secular and religious parts of our lives very significantly overlap. This surely is an important issue for the churches to have resources at hand to help them.”
“The last statement, in 1986, was good for its time, but so much has happened since then. We need new resources and a new way of having dialogue,” she added.
The work of the new commission will add on to the research of the earlier Exploratory Committee on Human Genetic Technologies, which in 2002-2003 reviewed NCC and member communion statements, studies and other materials concerning biotechnology along with their existing education, outreach and advocacy work related to biotechnology and public policy. The exploratory committee’s report and recommendations were delivered to the NCC’s 2003 General Assembly and resulted in the call for a new policy.
The study guide on the issue will be made available to congregations, ecumenical councils, seminaries and other groups by this spring.
The following are the members of the newly appointed Human Genetics Policy Development Committee:
· Ms Clare Chapman [Chairperson] - United Methodist Church, New York City, National Denominational Layleader
· Ms Jacqueline Cho - Presbyterian Church (USA), Ardmore, Pa., Seminarian
· Mrs. Blythe Crissman - United Methodist Church, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., Pediatric Genetics Counselor
· Dr. Donald L. Cronkite - Reformed Church in America, Hope College Science Center, Holland, Mich., Professor/Theologian
· Fr. Demetrios Demopoulos - The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Fitchburg, Mass., Clergy
· The Rev. James Fenimore - United Methodist Church, Christ Church, Troy, N.Y., Clergy/PhD
· Mr. Victor Franklin - United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Ga., Seminarian
· The Rev. Bill Gaventa - The American Baptist Churches in the USA, The Boggs Center, New Brunswick, N.J., Educator/Disabilities Advocate and Chaplain
· Dr. Christine Gudorf, ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, Miami Beach, Fla., Ethics Professor
· Mr. David Leslie - Ecumenist, Portland, Ore., Director, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
· Dr. Gerald McKenney - Presbyterian Church (USA), South Bend, Ind., Medical Ethicist
· Bishop Serapion - Coptic Orthodox Church, Los Angeles, Calif.
· The Rev. Wallace Charles Smith - PROGRESSIVE NATIONAL BAPTIST CONVENTION, Washington, D.C., Pastor
· Dr. Peter Sulyok - Presbyterian Church (USA), Louisville, Ky., Denominational Staff/Theologian
· Dr. Olivia White - United Church of Christ, Cleveland, Ohio, Genetic Scientist/Denominational Executive (Executive Minister, Wider Church Ministries)
· Dr. Anne Wimberly - United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Ga., Seminary Professor
The following are the names of the newly appointed senior sages:
· Dr. Cynthia Cohen - Episcopal Church, Garrett Park, Md., Academic Sociologist
· Dr. Troy Duster - African Methodist Episcopal Church, New York, N.Y., Academic Sociologist
· Dr. Christine Holland - United Church of Christ, Laytonsville, Md., Retired, PhD, Genetics/Medical Researcher/Public Health Educator
· Dr. Neil Lamb - United Methodist Church, Emory University, Lilburn, Ga., Medical/Genetic Medicine
· Mr. Bill McKibben - United Methodist Church, Middlebury, Vt., Writer/Thinker
· Dr. Robert Pollack - Jewish, New York, N.Y., Professor of Biology and Genetics/Science and Religion
· The Rev. Dr. Larry Rasmussen - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, New York, N.Y., Seminary Ethicist