MBC leadership: We must defend the human embryo
By Allen Palmeri
December 13, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – The president and executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) are encouraging Missouri Baptist pastors to preach sermons on the sanctity of the human embryo in light of a petition drive in Missouri that would amend the state constitution to prohibit therapeutic cloning and embryonic stem cell research from being banned. The official date being promoted for the special sermons is May 7.
Southern Baptist polity prevents Ralph Sawyer and David Clippard from having the authority to order such sermons preached from Missouri Baptist pulpits, unlike what Catholic leaders did in Missouri Nov. 26-27. Priests throughout the state were told to educate their parishes on the cloning/embryonic stem cell issue in light of the effort by a group called the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, which is trying to secure the necessary 150,000 signatures in order to get their issue on next year’s election ballot.
However, Missouri Baptist pastors do have a history of addressing moral concerns when prompted by their leaders. The denomination was aggressive in its support of two ballot issues in 2004. One amended the state constitution to protect the definition of marriage as being only between a man and woman; the other kept casino gambling out of the family-oriented Branson area. The MBC is the largest evangelical denomination in Missouri with approximately 2,000 churches and 650,000 members.
“It takes courage to stand up for what is right, but Missouri Baptists have always done that,” Sawyer said. “That should compel Missouri Baptist pastors to preach unashamedly on moral issues to our society instead of just playing church.”
Clippard encouraged pastors to study the issue thoroughly before getting in the pulpit.
“Scripture tells us to speak for the defenseless, to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves, which is certainly the case of the unborn,” he said. “The issue is life. We’re into a brand new world, and we do need to go back to the Scripture and say, ‘What does the Scripture say about life and ethics?’ Our pastors need to come to our people and say, ‘I believe this is what the Scripture is teaching us on this issue.’”
The MBC passed three resolutions this year that clearly define and defend the human embryo. Pastors ought to prayerfully read those resolutions and look up the cited Bible passages as they prepare their sermons, said Sawyer, pastor, First Baptist Church, Wentzville.
“Every Missouri Baptist has the moral and ethical obligation to stand for life,” he said. “The Bible clearly teaches the sanctity of human life. It clearly teaches selfless living instead of selfish living. It clearly teaches the protection of innocent life is more valuable than political or peer pressure. It teaches that Scriptural morals are more important than money. So it is never proper for anyone to take the life of one human being in order to meet the need of another human being if they have no say in the process.”
Clippard said that Missouri Baptists who are being bombarded by deceptive pro-cloning television advertising are bound to have questions.
“It’s a tremendously heated, emotional issue, because you have people like in my family who have Alzheimer’s and others who are wheelchair-bound because of spinal injuries,” he said. “Anytime you have something that is purported to have cures, then you’re talking about emotions, because people are willing to do anything for that son, that daughter, that friend.”
Embryonic stem cells, or cloning, have yet to lead to a cure for any disease. Conversely, adult stem cell research, which Missouri Baptists support, has shown great promise and has led to cures in certain cases of diabetes and other maladies.
Sawyer, who expects the issue to remain front and center for the first of his two years as president (he took office Oct. 26), is determined to focus on the topic of embryonic stem cell research through the lens of a comprehensive, biblical worldview.
“We will want to try to explain to all people that every embryo is a unique human being,” he said. “Everybody is somebody to God. There’s nobody who’s not somebody to God, so every person is important.
“Whether it’s embedded in the woman to make her pregnant or outside, cloning is still the creation of human life. Unfertilized eggs are not where they get the stem cells from. They get them from embryos. So whenever I get an opportunity to speak to the issue, I will do it.”