At the 2014 General Assembly, the Church and Society Council presented a report on “kinship bonds”, which explores issues around what does it mean to be family in 21st century Scotland?
Advances in and the widespread availability of new reproductive technologies mean that kinship, including the ways and contexts in which children are conceived and raised, are evolving in new directions. The church needs to be sensitive to these new developments.
The realities of family relationships within Scottish society have changed profoundly over the past few decades. The widespread availability of assisted conception such as IVF means that many children born have parents responsible for their care who are distinct from their biological parents. Meanwhile, children offered for adoption are no longer typically healthy infants given up at birth, but may be older children- often from homes affected by alcohol, drugs or other social problems.
And there always seems to be something new coming over the horizon. One new technique currently causing a considerable amount of controversy is maternal spindle transfer, as yet unlicensed for human application. In cases where the prospective mother carries genes for serious mitochondrial disease, the technique seeks to create embryos to whom two females contribute genetically- “3- parent embryos”. Concerns include worries about unexpected abnormalities in resulting children- the UK government is currently running a public consultation about whether this type of research should be permitted.
In a society impacted by changing technologies and by evolving concepts of family structure, an increasing number of children have several different kinds of parents. Kinship is thus evolving in new directions.
Images such as adoption and parenthood are also key in understanding the relationship of God to humanity. The Christian faith offers a view of kinship and identity which can speak to and transcend family structures. A deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding kinship can enable us, as a church, to better support the families and individuals in our congregations and communities. It will be interesting to debate these issues at the General Assembly as part of our report.
New developments in reproductive technologies have brought an almost bewildering variety of new possibilities of bringing children into existence, and human ingenuity at developing these techniques is amazing. As Christians, we need to be prayerfully and pastorally concerned about how these advances affect people and societies. We believe that the SRT project plays an important role in helping the church to engage in an informed way with these kinds of issues.
View the full report