Genetics, Faith & Responsibility

What Does the ELCA Teach about:  Genetics, Faith, and Responsibility?

The next topic in our ELCA Social Statements is Genetics, Faith, and Responsibility.  This social statement can be found in its entirety on the ELCA Webpage and like all of our social statements is designed to be a guide for discernment and discussion rather than a hard-and-fast ruling or policy.  It was adopted by the 2011 Churchwide Assembly.

There are a few core beliefs that emerge from this statement:

  1. The ELCA supports and encourages continued research and understanding of genetics and how genetic makeup influences health, well-being, and challenges in our lives.  Secular advancements in fields related to genetics (biology, embryology, biochemistry, etc) and their ability to improve life and quality of life are to be celebrated.
  2. The ELCA recognizes and encourages discussion on how some branches of science can be used in ways that are both helpful and harmful.  Some of the same science that can be used to treat illness can be used to develop biological weapons of war.  As a result, many branches of science tied to genetics are largely neutral in and of themselves.  The ELCA also recognizes that there may be unintended harm that emerges from otherwise well-meaning innovations.
  3. The sin of pride is the place where innovations in science and technology can go wrong.  When a believer or community of believers works to discern the value or “rightness” of such innovations, examining motivations for the sin of pride is valuable.
  4. We believe that Jesus, God made flesh, was both fully human and fully divine.  It can be helpful to remember that Jesus also had a genetic sequence – was a part of what we call “the human genome.”  When discerning how genetics ought to be applied ethically and morally, it can be helpful to remember that (1) all of humanity is in God’s image and (2) The human genome includes Jesus.

One of the themes that was clear in this social statement was the importance of considering all of these things within the community of Christ.  Many of you know that there was some significant breakdown of community in the ELCA in 2009 when the ELCA discerned that members of the LGBTQIA+ community could be ordained – a decision that many churches, communities, and even families split over.  (I will be writing on this social statement in later months.)  What was clear to me as I read and studied this statement was a desire for the ELCA as children of God to come together and make decisions regarding Genetics, Faith & Responsibility with the entire community in mind.

As always, if there are any questions about any of the ELCA Social Statements, let me know.  I’d be happy to discuss them with you!

In Christian Love,

Pr Sharilyn