Hundreds of Lutheran churches across the nation will receive a report this month explaining why all human life including embryos developed outside the womb through scientific methods should be protected.
The document, Christian Faith and Human Beginnings, was developed earlier this year by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) Commission on Theology and Church Relations, and will be sent out to all LCMS-related congregations and ministers by the end of the year.
According to Dr. Samuel Nafzger, executive director of the Commission, the report is one of the most significant documents prepared by his group.
"It is an important document, very technical, but very readable," he said. "It makes the strongest case that neither science nor medicine has documented reasons for change in the long-standing LCMS position that human life and that includes pre-implantation life is included under the Scriptural mandate for protection and care."
One technical aspect of the report is a section detailing in-vitro fertilization the clinical practice of fertilizing human eggs in a laboratory setting.
The report does not reject the practice as a means for producing human life at fertility clinics. However, it cautiously warns against the use of excess embryos for scientific research.
"Upon examination, the Commission on Theology and Church Relations has remained convinced that both biblical and philosophical perspectives support the wisdom of protecting pre-implantation embryos from the time of conception, the report states.
This means such embryos should not be used for stem-cell research or for cloning.
"The approaches proposed thus far do not succeed in providing clear and convincing evidence to lift the burden of proof that lies on those who propose to destroy embryos," the report states. "In the absence of decisive arguments, pre-implantation embryonic life should be afforded the benefit of the doubt and the benefit of life."
Much of the debate is dedicated to biblical texts explaining the sacred worth of all human life.
"When conversing with people who are not convinced that these passages and principles extend to pre-implantation human life, we can nonetheless assert that at the very least the bias in Scripture testifies to God's care for all human life," the report states.
If we become accustomed to excluding some human lives even when we may reasonably doubt the ethics of the exclusion, we may in our sinful pride find pretexts also to exclude other lives from the circle of our care, the report continues. This fact of human moral carelessness should make us all redouble our efforts to be completely sure about our ethics before we press forward."
The "Christian Faith and Human Beginnings" report began under a request by the 1998 LCMS Convention as a means to guide Christians in responding to the use of fertilized human eggs for medical research. The project describes in technical detail methods used by scientists and provides a glossary of related terms.