Genetics Must Benefit Common Good, Lutherans Say

Advancements in genetic science must always "respect and promote the community of life with justice and wisdom," a draft statement from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) said.

Released on Thursday, the 49-page draft offers a broad discussion framework on a variety of current topics in the field including advances in medicine, reproductive cloning, human embryonic stem cells, and animal and plant genetic engineering.

"The advances of genetics illustrate an unprecedented and qualitative change in human powers in recent times," the statement reads. "Such powers invoke a greater level of human accountability for the future of society and nature."

Stating that genetic knowledge and application must always benefit the common good, the draft shows support for investment in genetic knowledge and its application to heal afflictions, relieve human suffering, improve the human situation and restore the environment while rejecting genetic developments that harm the community of life.

The draft also rejects the reproductive cloning of humans as well as the "technological imperative" that humans may use knowledge to create any technological application if the market will support it.

Furthermore, the draft calls for long-term, ecological, social and economic impact assessment for genetic processes and products as well as increased education about and labeling of genetically engineered food.

"This document tries to formulate a moral framework that can encompass questions about human genetics, and plant and animal genetics," Dr. Per Anderson, professor at Concordia College told the ELCA News Service.

"We are trying to create a conversation and get a consensus about how to think about these topics in a way that is truly Lutheran and truly Christian in the 21st century," he added.

Prepared by the ELCA Task Force on Genetics, the draft follows a November 2008 study document released by the ELCA called Genetics and Faith: Power, Choice and Responsibility.

Individuals and congregations are able to study and give feedback on the draft until October 15, with a revised version of the draft and a proposed social statement scheduled to be released in February 2011.

"The draft is not so much a list of specific decisions on particular genetic issues as it is a framework to discuss specific topics," said Janet Williams, a genetics counselor from Salt Lake City, and task force co-chair.

"My hope is that it actually does generate discussion and a recognition that these topics are important."

The concluding statement of the draft notes: "In this 21st century the church's trust exists not in human achievements, but in the Triune God who creates, redeems and will finish making all things new. This One is the source of Christian confidence to live boldly in these times; it is a confidence that runs from the beginning to the end of faith and responsibility in any age."

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