March 8, 2012
The Right of Identity
The one resolution originating from the Diocese of Albany to go before the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church will be the one titled "A Right to Human Identity" sponsored by the Rev. Mark Diebel.
As reported in this blog when it came before the 2009 diocesan convention in Albany, the resolution aims to address the loss of history for both adoptees and persons born through artificial reproductive technology, including surrogacy parenting. The proposal was passed in Albany and referred to the 76th General Convention. There it was taken up by the Commission on Social Justice and Public Policy. That commission referred it, without change, for consideration by General Convention in 2012. The 77th General Convention will meet in Indianapolis this June.
The author, Mark Diebel, sees room for expansion of the resolution. He would like to see GC “undertake a study of the implications of artificial reproductive technologies for human identity and report their findings”. In fact, an amendment to that effect was proposed at the 2009 Albany diocesan convention, but was defeated before the main resolution was passed. Now Diebel says that the resolution "needs exposure and discussion in order to get understanding of it." Here is the resolution that will be considered at 77th General Convention, and explanation:
RESOLVED, the House of ________ concurring, that the 77thGeneral Convention of the Episcopal Church urge all dioceses to adopt the following statement: Personal history is a fundamental human right and knowledge of one’s entire parentage should be assumed as part of a person’s natural property, and be it further;
RESOLVED, that the 77th General Convention urge all dioceses to adopt the following statement: That all state legislatures be urged to establish procedures that would enable adoptees (upon reaching legal age) to secure current information regarding their historical heritage, medical history, and genetic derivation without the necessity of court action.
The Episcopal Church has had little formal conversation on issues related to the advances in genetic engineering, and their impact upon our daily lives. At the 76th General Convention, such an opportunity was missed as a similar resolution to this one was submitted. Though the resolution passed for debate, it did not get out of legislative committee in time for consideration by General Convention. The Standing Commission on Social Justice and Public Policy believes that a general debate is timely and of increasing importance to the wider Church. It is of note that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, in its 2011 Church Wide Assembly received a social statement paper on Genetics.
Adoptees in the United States are not necessarily granted knowledge of their parentage because state law in forty eight states seals their original birth certificate. There are no laws that protect the identity history of children born using artificial reproductive technology. Sperm, egg, and/or embryo donations may not be disclosed to the children so conceived. Similar concerns exist for children born of surrogacy parenting.
Theological grounds for knowledge of one’s origins maybe seen in scripture: a) Old Testament scriptural testimony is structured around genealogical narratives; b) the theological concept of adoption witnessed by Paul incorporates knowledge of one’s origins; c) Jesus’ birth narratives incorporate genealogies; d) the concept of fatherhood is retained in the New Testament. Furthermore, Church history has testified to the importance of blood line in canon law. The theological concept that a person may become a “child of God” by the “will of God” does not negate other origin narratives, but fulfills them. Narrative theology emphasizes the importance of the human narrative on personal and social levels.
The Episcopal Church has already declared in GC 1982-D082: “Resolved, the House of Bishops Concurring” that state legislatures be urged to establish procedures that would enable adoptees (upon reaching legal age) to secure current information regarding their historical heritage, medical history and genetic derivation without the necessity of court action..."