United Methodist leads new NCC human genetics committee
Feb. 12, 2004
By Carol Fouke*
YORK (UMNS) - A multidisciplinary committee, working with a blue-ribbon
panel of "Senior Sages," will lead the U.S. ecumenical community's work
over the next two years on issues of human genetic technology.
Human Genetics Policy Committee will work on replacing the National
Council of Churches' outdated 1986 policy, "Genetic Science for Human
Benefit," with a new policy. The council's General Assembly mandated the
creation of the committee during an annual meeting in November.
Chapman, a United Methodist and NCC vice president, is chairwoman of
the policy committee. The committee's work will guide the council's
educational outreach and public policy efforts in the field of genetics.
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,"
said Chapman, who is a staff executive with the United Methodist
Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns in New York.
"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."
noted that the 1986 statement was pertinent at the time, "but so much
has happened since then. We need new resources and a new way of having
Rev. Eileen W. Lindner, an NCC executive, will serve as staff for the
committee. "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.'"
policy development committee will address moral and ethical
implications of the whole range of applications of human genetic
technology, along with such related issues as equality of access,
regulatory issues and so forth, added Lindner, a minister in the
Presbyterian Church (USA).
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," she said. "For these reasons, the NCC's effort,
with the outstanding expertise that we have been able to assemble,
clearly is being welcomed.
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."
for the committee's work include $15,000 from member communions,
$25,000 from the CSFund and $35,000 from the Appleton Foundation.
addition to Chapman, four other United Methodists are part of the
16-member committee. Members include ethicists, a pediatrics genetics
counselor, a genetic scientist, educators, seminarians, theologians,
clergy, and denominational and ecumenical leaders. Committee members
represent diverse ages and racial/ethnic backgrounds, and include a
person with disabilities.
"Senior Sages" will serve as a consulting group to the policy
development committee. The consultants include two United Methodists
with extensive experience in addressing ethical issues related to the
application of biotechnologies to humans.
Human Genetics Policy Development Committee will build on work done by
an earlier Exploratory Committee on Human Genetic Technologies. In 2002
and 2003, the exploratory committee reviewed NCC and member communion
statements, studies and other materials concerning biotechnology, along
with existing education, outreach and advocacy work related to
biotechnology and public policy. That committee's report and
recommendations were delivered to the council's 2003 General Assembly
and resulted in the call for a new policy.
spring, the NCC will make available a study guide for use by
congregations, ecumenical councils, seminaries and other groups, based
on the book Enough by Bill McKibben, which offers ethical reflection
from a Christian perspective.
a United Methodist, is one of the "Senior Sages" supporting the
committee. The book and study guide offer an opportunity to gain a basic
understanding of biotechnologies and the opportunities and challenges
of their human application.
*Fouke is media liaison for the National Council of Churches USA.
News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org
of members of the National Council of Churches' new Human Genetics
Policy Development Committee and Senior Sages group follow.
Clare Chapman (chairperson), United Methodist Church, New York City, national denominational lay leader
Jacqueline Cho, Presbyterian Church (USA), Ardmore, Pa., seminarian
Blythe Crissman, United Methodist Church, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., pediatric genetics counselor
Donald L. Cronkite, Reformed Church in America, Hope College Science Center, Holland, Mich., professor/theologian
Father Demetrios Demopoulos, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Fitchburg, Mass., clergy
The Rev. James Fenimore, United Methodist Church, Christ Church, Troy, N.Y., clergy
Victor Franklin, United Methodist Church, Atlanta, seminarian
Rev. Bill Gaventa, American Baptist Churches in the USA, the Boggs
Center, New Brunswick, N.J., educator/disabilities advocate and chaplain
Christine Gudorf, Roman Catholic Church, Miami Beach, Fla., ethics professor
David Leslie, ecumenist, Portland, Ore., director, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
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, pastor
Peter Sulyok, Presbyterian Church (USA), Louisville, Ky., denominational staff/theologian
White, United Church of Christ, Cleveland, genetic
scientist/denominational executive, executive minister, Wider Church
Anne Wimberly, United Methodist Church, Atlanta, seminary professor
Cynthia Cohen, Episcopal Church, Garrett Park, Md., academic sociologist
Troy Duster, African Methodist Episcopal Church, New York, academic sociologist
Christine Holland, United Church of Christ, Laytonsville, Md., retired, genetics/medical researcher/public health educator
Neil Lamb, United Methodist Church, Emory University, Lilburn, Ga., medical/genetic medicine
Bill McKibben, United Methodist Church, Middlebury, Vt., writer/thinker
Robert Pollack, Jewish, New York, professor of biology and genetics/science and religion
The Rev. Larry Rasmussen, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, New York, seminary ethicist