Amid often fevered public debate on bioethics, stem cell research. the use of embryos and abortion, the Methodist Church is taking a careful investigative approach to 'early life' ethical concerns - bearing in mind both scientific data and theological issues.
The move came when the Methodist Council, the church's senior coordinating body, met on 15-16 April at High Leigh Conference Centre in Hertfordshire - the last one before the decision-making Methodist Conference in July 2008.
It is a number of years since the Methodist Conference addressed issues relating to early human life, and the Council noted that medical advances have opened up many new possibilities but have also raised new ethical questions.
The Council considered a major report on early human life that will now go to the Conference. The Rev Ken Howcroft, Coordinating Secretary for Conference and Communication, said: “This is a complex area that many people have strong feelings about. This report offers a detailed look at the medical issues and the theological responses to them.”
Although the report does not reach a conclusion about the legal time limit for abortion, it will recommend to the Conference that this area needs further work.
The Council also passed a resolution deploring the situation in Darfur, and asked Methodists to keep this situation and those seeking peace in their prayers.
A large-scale pilot scheme has also been approved for a Youth Participation Strategy. This will see the Church spend about £4 million over the next five years, encouraging and enabling young people aged 16-23 to take a full part in the governance and leadership of the Church.
The Methodist Church is one of the largest Christian churches in Britain, with nearly 300,000 members and regular contact with over 800,000 people. It has about 5,800 churches and maintains links with other Methodist churches totalling a worldwide membership of 70 million.