Episcopal priests ask diocese to support stem-cell amendment

Monday, September 25, 2006

Missourians will vote Nov. 7 on an amendment to the state constitution to protect stem-cell research and treatment.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri will consider a resolution supporting a state ballot initiative to protect embryonic stem-cell research.

Three Kansas City priests -- the Rev. Stan Runnels of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the Rev. Fred Mann, rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church; and the Rev. Terry White, dean of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral -- have asked the diocese to approve the measure.

It will be considered at the diocese's 117th convention Oct. 27 and 28 in Kansas City. The diocese includes 13,000 members in 51 congregations extending as far east as Boonville.

The resolution, which was drafted by Runnels, would recognize that both adult and early stem-cell research are "consistent with the theological teachings and moral practices of the Episcopal Church."

"There are a variety of voices within the Christian tradition," Runnels said. "There is not one Christian point of view."

Missourians will vote Nov. 7 on whether to amend the state constitution to guarantee that all federally allowed stem-cell research and treatment can occur in the state. Included in that would be embryonic stem-cell research, which advocates hope will eventually generate treatment and cures for spinal cord injuries, diabetes, Alzheimer's and a host of other diseases. Opponents say the process involves destroying an early form of human life.

Larry Weber, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, which opposes the ballot measure, said he was disappointed that the Episcopal Church might support it.

Respectful discussion

"We should not be engaged in an immoral act to achieve some medical advancement," Weber said.

White said he hoped the resolution would prompt a frank discussion that acknowledges the complexity of the issue without attacking people who hold different opinions.

"We hope to create an atmosphere where a prayerful, respectful, logical discussion can take place rather than the more strident comments that you hear in much of this debate that come close to putting down people who disagree," he said.

A statement supporting the resolution notes that in 2003 the Episcopal Church's policymaking council, the General Convention, urged the federal government to expand funding of research into embryonic stem cells -- with limits.

The restrictions outlined by the national Episcopal Church match the restrictions in the proposed amendment. The measure prohibits fertilizing eggs solely for research, prohibits buying or selling human eggs and requires all research be approved by an oversight board that evaluates whether the research meets legal and ethical standards.

Runnels said the similarities between the Episcopal standards and measure showed that scientists are applying moral principles to their research.

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