General Synod Statements: Genetic Engineering

Human Cloning to Produce Children

At this time, human reproductive cloning is morally and theologically unacceptable. The risks of harm outweigh possible benefits of the technology. Cloning threatens to diminish genetic diversity…A number of dubious motivations seem to inspire human cloning. A perspective that increasingly seeks to control and manage life in a way that distances humanity from its Creator makes for a decisive verdict against this technology. The church must faithfully resist participation in and support of human reproductive cloning. (MGS 2004: 295)

Stem Cell Research

The 2002 General Synod concluded that “the questions surrounding stem cell technology are complex and clouded. There are a variety of views within the Christian community. The various sources of embryonic stem cells warrant different moral evaluations.” There are four major sources of stem cells:

  • From miscarriages: There is some possibility of developing stem cells from miscarried fetuses. With parental consent, this source for stem cells seems the least ethically ambiguous.
  • Existing lines of stem cells: United States federal funding is currently restricted to the roughly 60 lines of stem cells already in existence; the intention of the restriction is to discourage the destruction of additional embryos while still allowing research on the existing lines. The RCA’s Commission on Christian Action generally supported the continued use of existing stem cell lines for research.
  • Disposal and freezing of surplus embryos: Declining to view embryos, even those that are to be discarded, as a source for stem cells may inhibit the development of an outlook that views human beings as things and spare parts. Resisting the use of embryonic stem cells could greatly encourage research to focus on developing stem cells from alternate sources, such as adult bone marrow.
  • Production of embryos for stem cells: Creating embryos solely for scientific purposes, such as cloning and developing stem cells, promotes a perspective that views embryos and potentially all life as a commodity or resource. The RCA’s Commission on Christian Action strongly opposed any production of embryos solely for stem cell research. (MGS 2002: 98-99)

Genetic Testing and Screening

Genetic testing and screening provide us with increased information. The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that “with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief” (Ecclesiastes 1:18, NIV). Increased knowledge inevitably brings increased moral responsibility. Genetic testing is never a neutral act. Once information from genetic testing is acquired, there is no avoiding some response. Inaction is no less a response than action. The church needs to stand with, support, and share the love of Christ with our brothers and sisters responding to information received from genetic testing.

The church has an important role to play in providing a biblical perspective on disease, suffering, and wholeness. A deeper, more holistic perspective will offer a word of caution to society, which seems so eager to seize on the hope of perfection through technology. We must remind our fellow humanity that technological advances, no matter how marvelous, will not save us. Salvation and wholeness finally come only through Jesus Christ.

The church is always predisposed toward efforts both to alleviate suffering and value life, although neither is finally our ultimate loyalty. As we encounter issues surrounding genetic testing and screening, we proceed with caution, with accurate scientific information, and as prayerful, humble creatures. (MGS 2001: 381)