Spirited Marshall defends human embryo
By Allen Palmeri
April 4, 2006
SPRINGFIELD – John Marshall, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, is taking a stand for the innocent human embryo on w ww.secondbaptist.org.
“Our church is strongly pro-life,” Marshall said. “We feel that embryonic stem cell research is a pro-life issue. It’s a taking of life.”
Marshall is wielding a two-edged sword. The first edge is an article he compiled with input from six of his church members that bears the title of “Stem Cell Research.” The second edge is his blog, “John 3:16 Marshall.” In it you can read five March titles concerning stem cell research including “Stem Cells: Americans Can Think,” “Stem Cell Sound Bytes,” “Adult Stem Cells,” “Key to Stem Cells: Embryonic” and “Stem Cells Versus Abortion.” The posts are short and easy to digest.
“I try to make it as simple as possible,” Marshall said.
Marshall sought help from six of his scientifically minded church members on the controversial topic of embryonic stem cell research, which has the potential to be particularly divisive in Marshall’s flock because the governor, Matt Blunt, calls Second his home church. Gov. Blunt has been steadfast in his support of a proposed ballot initiative to create a constitutional right to clone human embryos with the caveat that he does not believe that life is created through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which is a cloning technique.
One of the six scientific experts that Marshall sought out within the Second community agreed with the governor’s position. Marshall has weighed that minority view but has definitely chosen to write for the majority on the Web site. The precise moment that God breathes life inside a human embryo is truly a mystery, the pastor said.
“It is playing with words to say accumulation of human cells is not an embryo, and thus not human life,” Marshall wrote. “If the blastocyst were allowed to continue to develop, as it would in the uterus, normal development would continue, and a baby would be born. This baby would be a clone of the chromosome donor, such as Dolly, the cloned sheep.”
Marshall said he is clinging to Psalm 139. One of the verses in that psalm is worded, “Where can I go from Your Spirit?” Marshall has concluded that the human being posing that question could not safely conclude that he or she could go inside the innocent human embryo and thereby avoid the Holy Spirit. Even so, dissent does exist. The church member in the minority is a real person.
“One of the six felt it would be OK to do embryonic stem cell if it was a somatic cell nuclear transfer as opposed to a fertilized cell,” Marshall noted.
In his most recent public explanation of his cloning position, at a Missouri Press Association media function Feb. 16 at the Governor’s Mansion, Gov. Blunt once again took time out of a busy press conference to explain where he stands on the issue.
“I didn’t craft the amendment,” he said. “It’s maybe not exactly what I would have written, but I think it takes some strong steps forward to ensure that life-saving research does occur in Missouri. It sets some parameters around the research. It clearly says that some research is not going to be allowed. Everything’s legal today. There is nothing that’s illegal. You can clone a human being in the state of Missouri, and that ought to be a crime.”
Marshall is in agreement with that last sentence, but he also acknowledged the train that is coming. Millions of dollars are about to be spent in the months to come so that a simple majority of Missourians on Nov. 7 will vote for an initiative measure that permits research cloning but prohibits reproductive cloning. There is a chance that the initiative will not be on the ballot, but Missouri Baptist pastors like Marshall are preparing for the worst. Sermons will be preached May 7 on the topic.
“It’s hard to beat a well-financed tidal wave of heart-tugging ads,” Marshall wrote, referring to the pro-cloning ads suggesting that break-through cures for diseases are imminent.