First bioethics conference offers `lots to chew on`

Many of the more than 300 participants say they hope the first national bioethics conference sponsored by three Lutheran pro-life organizations is not the last.

“These aren’t abstract and obscure issues about things going on in some faraway Petri dish.  These are issues that are going to affect every pastor, every congregation, and every family,” said Paul Nus, a Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, student and member of the Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations.  “As Christians, we need to be informed.”
 
Physicians, pastors, and laity from as far away as Washington state and Washington, D.C., were among those in St. Louis for the Nov. 11 conference sponsored by LCMS World Relief/Human Care, the Concordia Bioethics Institute of Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, and national Lutherans For Life (LFL).  The conference preceded the LFL annual conference at the same location.
 
Keynote addresses and lively panel discussions covered topics such as stem cell research, cloning, and hormonal birth control.
 
Keynote speaker Nigel M. de S. Cameron, president of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future and director of the Council of Biotechnology Policy, praised LCMS pro-life efforts.  But, he said, Christians must broaden their sanctity-of-life concerns beyond the taking of life to also include the making of life (cloning and reproductive issues) and the faking of life (artificial intelligence).
 
A common thread echoed the conference theme, “The Image of God: Its Meaning and Implications,” as speakers urged participants not to dismiss biotechnology issues as too scientific or too farfetched.
 
“Christians cannot be afraid of science,” said Dr. Sharon Quick, a former pediatric anesthesiologist who, as the Washington State Coordinator for the American Academy of Medical Ethics, has testified before that state’s legislature on bills related to stem-cell research and cloning.  “The conference did a good job of arming people with scientific data that supports a Christian viewpoint,” she said.
 
Throughout the day, attendees asked about a follow-up conference.  “We gave our laity and our professional health-care and church workers lots to chew on, and I think we all would like to see this happen again,” said Maggie Karner, director of Life Ministries, a program of LCMS World Relief/Human Care.  “These are topics that definitely cry out for future exploration.”
 
For more conference coverage, see “Notes for Life,” the new free quarterly newsletter published by LCMS Life Ministries.

Posted Dec. 1, 2005

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