Committee tackles ethical questions on eve of new millennium

Published January 1, 1999

Euthanasia, human sexuality, review of the marriage canon, reproductive technologies, evangelism and the use of Scripture: these are a sampling of issues the church’s faith, worship and ministry committee will give high priority to over the next three years.

The committee has 52 tasks to be worked on or at least monitored before the next General Synod meeting in 2001, department director Alyson Barnett-Cowan said. It ranked them high, medium or low at its October meeting “in terms of the energy level for the committee to expend in this triennium.”

Many tasks under the ethics heading are listed as high priority. The euthanasia statement and report commended to General Synod in May will be distributed for church discussion. The statement – which came out squarely against euthanasia and assisted suicide – may be published on the Internet along with a chat line to solicit responses.

Advanced care directives, which allow people to specify what sort of medical care they wish to have once they are no longer capable of stating their wishes, will be collected and studied in order to guide Anglicans considering their use.

The committee is contemplating taking part in the North American Ecumenical Round Table of Faith and Science.

“The committee sees its task as facilitating conversation throughout the church on this issue,” Ms. Barnett-Cowan said.

Human sexuality will also be given a high priority. Dioceses have been asked to set up commissions on human sexuality but only nine had responded by the fall, one of which declined to do so. Dioceses should be given concrete questions to work on, committee members said, and ought to be told the discussion should not be limited to homosexuality.

The task group plans to gather for information purposes from other parts of the Communion, liturgical, theological and pastoral material relating to blessing same-sex unions.

Committee members passed a resolution condemning bigotry and hatred of gays and lesbians, which was later endorsed by the Council of General Synod. Despite the range of views of committee members towards homosexuality, committee chairman Archdeacon Barry Hollowell says the resolution passed without argument.

“When it comes to acts of violence because of sexual orientation or background, we need to, as a Christian community, reassert our voice and say, ?No, that’s not just,'” he said.

Nor is it sufficient to pass a resolution, he added. “It’s not good enough to say we condemn bigotry and violence. We need to work at issues of being a welcoming community.”

The committee itself is a microcosm of the church and reflects a range of views, the archdeacon said. He has tried to have committee members get to know each other as individuals with histories and integrity, he said. That way, they can continue to see each other as people once they run into disagreements on issues, he said, and can more easily resolve problems.

Other issues considered high priority for the next three years include:

  • litigation and conflict resolution, in which alternative methods of conflict resolution, including mediation and healing circles, will be studied;
  • reproductive technology;
  • developing a core curriculum for theological education;
  • review of the marriage canon;
  • full communion with the Lutheran church;
  • how Scripture is used, personally, in groups, liturgically and in decision-making;
  • worship resources for children and youth; and
  • liturgy after 2001.


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