Human Sexuality and Sexual Behavior A Social Statement of the American Lutheran Church, a predecessor church body of the ELCA (1980): Joining in Procreation

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1. One of the purposes of marriage is for the partners to share in the pleasures—and the sorrows—of parenthood. Nurturing the young, in the spirit of Deuteronomy 6:4-8 and of Ephesians 6:4, is a major responsibility of fathers and mothers.

2. We would wish that every conception would be mutually desired, sought by both partners in its specific time and circumstance. Both partners should desire the child; both should be prepared to provide emotionally, spiritually, physically, and socially for the child. So desiring, they join their bodies sexually, merging their lives and their genetic resources to create and bring forth a new human life. Implicit is the understanding that both parents willingly accept the risks and the responsibilities as well as the benefits and joys of parenthood. Should either partner bear hereditary traits that might impose serious genetic difficulties upon their child, we encourage them to seek competent genetic counseling.

3. Not all married couples have, nor should have, children. Some are involuntarily childless. Some feel neither a call to parenthood nor the capability to be good parents. Some feel that the earth already is over-populated and that stewardship calls for their voluntarily giving up the option of parenthood. Some prefer to adopt already-born children whose biological parents cannot or will not provide for them.

4. Considered use of safe, effective birth control methods facilitates responsible procreation. It enhances enjoyment of sexual intercourse without fear of unwanted pregnancy. Men and women are to be equally responsible for contraception and for procreation.

5. In defining the acceptable limits of controlling reproduction, we agree that voluntary sterilization may be an appropriate option. We view abortion as a fundamentally inappropriate means of birth control. Indeed, willful abortion— the sacrifice of a fetal life—is always an offense against God and the human spirit. There are, however, some circumstances under which abortion may represent a course of action that is more responsible than are other options. Careful counseling, considering the best of available information, and earnest prayer should precede any decision where abortion appears to be a responsible choice.

6. Artificial insemination, conception in which only one of a couple (the woman in present circumstances) provides genetic material and the other genetic material comes from an anonymous donor, becomes a consideration for some married couples. There are, however, such moral, emotional, and legal ambiguities that must be taken into account as to render the procedure suspect for a Christian. Questions of artificial insemination, sperm banks, in vitro fertilization, surrogate gestation, and genetic engineering are in need of critical study. These questions which a technological world raises provide an opportunity for the church to clarify its own attitudes and to resolve the many ambiguities in each issue.

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