CTCR: equip Christians to speak out on issues

“Christian participation in public debate requires the use of language, argumentation, and strategies that — according to Scripture itself — are most appropriate and effective for interaction in the public realm, where God’s Word is not regarded as authoritative.” 

The quote is the primary point of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations’ response to a district’s concerns about “Christian Faith and Human Beginnings,” a report issued by the commission in 2005.  The report focused on “Christian participation in public debate concerning the use of embryos for medical research and therapy.” 

The commission unanimously adopted the response, titled “Defending Pre-Implantation Human Life in the Public Square,” at its Dec. 3-5 meeting in St. Louis. The response addresses concerns expressed in a resolution from the 2006 convention of the Wyoming District.

Because the issue of stem-cell research is a pressing and widespread concern, and because the response also deals with the broader issue of how Christians can faithfully and effectively engage moral and ethical issues in the public square, the CTCR decided to send copies of its response document to all LCMS congregations and rostered workers early in January 2008.

The Wyoming District resolution commended the CTCR’s 2005 report for using Scripture “to remind us that all life begins at conception.”  At the same time, it asked the CTCR to revisit the report because of a perceived lack of clarity regarding “the scriptural teaching that … the living but unborn are persons in the sight of God from the time of conception.”  The district expressed concerns about certain arguments used in the Commission’s report — for example, its use of the “burden of proof” argument — that the district viewed as a “departure from the historic practice of the church, which is to proclaim God’s Word.”

In its response, the CTCR points to two previous reports on beginning of life issues (1996 and 2002) that focused primarily on helping Christians understand Scripture teaching about those matters.  Its 2005 report, says the CTCR, “is completely consistent with what it has said in previous reports” regarding “the value of human life at every stage of its existence.”

“What is new in this report,” the commission continues, “is the focus on Christian participation in public debate for medical research and therapy.”   

With “Christian Faith and Human Beginnings,” the CTCR says it attempted to develop and encourage the use of persuasive arguments based on human reason and natural law to articulate the pro-life position.  It says such attempts are not “at odds” with the clear proclamation of God’s Word, adding that it is “a critically necessary task” for Christians to be engaged in the political realities of a pluralized society.

In other action, the commission approved a call for nominations for the CTCR Executive Director to be published in the January and February issues of Reporter and in the February issue of The Lutheran Witness. The Commission hopes to extend a call at its May meeting.

Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger, the current executive director, will leave the post July 1 to head a church relations branch in the Synod President’s office.  He began with the CTCR staff in 1973.

The commission will hold its third consultation on “The Scriptural Relationship of Men and Women” Feb. 18-19.  The meeting will review a first draft of a report, initially titled “Man and Woman — The Creator’s Tapestry.”  The six-person drafting committee is comprised of three men and three women, four of whom are consultants and two of whom are members of the CTCR.  A fourth consultation will be in either May or September.

Posted Dec. 19, 2007

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