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Infertility Ethics Symposium Will Inform Conscientious Choices, Defend Life

infertility-INRegistration is still open for the Infertility Ethics Symposium, sponsored by LCMS Life Ministry and the Concordia Seminary Life Team (CSLT), to be held Saturday, Nov. 8, at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (CSS). This one-day symposium is free of charge for pastors, commissioned ministers, and church work students as an opportunity to further their education on the rapidly changing—and somewhat intimidating—field of reproductive technology.

“The church needs to be prepared to help our people make good, God-pleasing decisions,” said the Rev. Dr. James I. Lamb, executive director of Lutherans For Life, who will be one of the presenters at the symposium. “Couples are exposed to a variety of reproductive technologies.  [Professional church workers] are the ones they will be turning to for advice on these issues.”

Currently 1.5 million couples in the United States are experiencing infertility, which is defined as the inability to conceive after twelve months of intercourse without contraception.1 Many of these couples belong to our churches, our circles of friends, and our own families. The choices they have for infertility treatments can be overwhelming and confusing. How is a Christian couple to know what choices are morally permissible? Can the Bible inform them on how to make these difficult decisions? The Infertility Ethics Symposium is a starting point for answering these questions.

“It’s important to attend the symposium because the culture is talking about infertility ethics, but the church has for too long been silent,” said the Rev. Christopher S. Esget, member of the Sanctity of Life Committee for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) Life Ministry, who will also be presenting at the symposium. “With the best of intentions, we end up saying insensitive and even spiritually damaging words. This symposium is a major step in helping our church find again her voice on an issue that is only growing in importance.”

What can attendees expect to learn at the symposium? Below is a list of the presenters and a summary of their presentations:

 The Rev. William M. Cwirla, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hacienda Heights, California: Be Fruitful and Multiply: Fertility Ethics Viewed in the Light of Creation and Redemption

 For a theologically informed discussion of fertility, we must take into consideration the biblical doctrines of creation and redemption. Fertility begins with the creative Word “Be fruitful and multiply” which is the source of all fertility, and extends into the work of redemption by way of the promised Seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). Baptized believers today must take into account their eschatological context as they confront various ethical issues pertaining to fertility and infertility.

 The Rev. Kevin E. Voss, DVM, PhD, FCA, associate professor of Philosophy and Director of the Concordia Center for Bioethics at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon, Wisconsin:  An Ethics Survey of Reproductive Counseling Practices in the Lutheran Church

 A survey was mailed to clergy affiliated with the Conservative branch of Judaism, the Roman Catholic Church, and the LCMS to determine their views about infertility and genetic counseling provided by clergy.  This presentation focuses specifically on responses given by LCMS parish pastors about their reproductive counseling practices.

 The Rev. Dr. James I. Lamb, executive director of Lutherans For Life: IVF: From Created to Creator

 “Where does the theologian begin when addressing the issue of in vitro fertilization (IVF)?”  We do not begin with biology but with theology, specifically the Second Article and the incarnation of our Lord at His conception.  From this starting point we will be able to establish a foundation upon which to properly look at and analyze the biology involved in IVF and, subsequently, what this means for God’s people on a practical level.

 Dr. Robert Weise, the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis Chair in Pastoral Ministry and the Life Sciences and professor of Practical Theology at CSS: Embryo Adoption: Helping or Hurting My Neighbor?

 One of the byproducts of in vitro fertilization and direct egg sperm injection is left over embryonic human beings that will not be used either to be placed back into the mother or a surrogate. What about embryo adoption as the “logical” approach to see that these unclaimed, unwanted embryos receive adoptive parents? The processes arriving at this stage, the moral and theological implications for procreation, parenting, human experimentation and caring for the smallest and weakest of our neighbors will be discussed.

The Rev. Christopher S. Esget, pastor of Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Virginia: Pastoral Care for Those Experiencing Infertility and Miscarriages

Barrenness is inextricably linked to mankind’s fall into sin. Many suffer in silence, presenting unique challenges to the pastor. This paper will address barrenness and the curse of Gen. 3, the lives of the patriarchs, and the unique challenges of modern reproductive technology in the spiritual lives of our parishioners. Particular attention will be paid to prayer and preaching in spiritual care of the barren.

The Rev. Peter Brock, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church—Bingen in Decatur, Indiana: The LCMS and Infertility Ethics

This paper surveys the LCMS’s engagement with infertility ethics and assisted reproduction. By listening to Lutheran voices, and bringing them into conversation with careful thinkers of other traditions, this paper attempts to emphasize the biblical vision that orients and directs our thinking about infertility, offering suggestions for a helpful and hopeful way forward.

 To register for the symposium, contact LCMS Life Ministry at 314-996-1711 or tracy.quaethem@lcms.org to receive more information.

1.       http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/infertility.htm


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