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LIFE DIGEST: ECT’s new statement urges work for ‘culture of life;’ Oregon boy emerges from coma after nearly two years

WASHINGTON (BP)–The project known as Evangelicals and Catholics Together recently released a new statement, this time on a subject that has made the two groups allies in American culture during the last three decades.

Southern Baptists are among the drafters and endorsers of the statement.

The new ECT document, “That They May Have Life,” addresses life issues — such as abortion, assisted suicide and embryo research -– and declares that “support for a culture of life is an integral part of Christian faith and therefore a morally unavoidable imperative of Christian discipleship.”

“We believe it is of utmost importance that everyone involved in the public discussion of these questions understand the unbreakable connection between a Christian worldview and the defense of human life,” the ECT statement says. “We can no more abandon our contention for a culture of life than we can abandon our allegiance to the lordship of Christ, for our contention is inseparably part of that allegiance.”

The document says, “Our churches do not simply support the pro-life movement as a social cause. Because the gospel of life is integral to God’s loving purpose for his creation, the Church of Jesus Christ, comprehensively understood, is a pro-life movement continuing God’s mission until the end of time.”

The statement acknowledges there is some merit in describing the current differences in the United States over these issues as “culture wars” but says it is unnecessary to “resign ourselves to unremitting warfare.”

“We cannot and would not impose this vision of a culture of life upon others,” ECT says. “We do propose to our fellow Christians and to all Americans that they join with us in a process of deliberation and decision that holds the promise of a more just and humane society committed, in life and law, to honoring the inestimable dignity of every human being created in the image and likeness of God.”

Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., is one of the evangelicals who helped write the statement. Other evangelical drafters included Prison Fellowship Chairman Charles Colson, who is a member of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla., and author J.I. Packer.

Among evangelicals endorsing the statement were Southern Baptists Rick Warren, best-selling author and pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.; David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and David Gushee, ethics professor at Union.

Other evangelical endorsers included Bryan Chappell, president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Mo.; Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and Joni Eareckson Tada, well-known author and head of a ministry to the disabled.

ECT’s latest statement is the sixth it has produced since 1994. The first two -– “The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium” in 1994 and “The Gift of Salvation” in 1998 -– met with particular criticism from some evangelicals.

The abortion issue increasingly brought evangelicals and Roman Catholics together in marches, crisis pregnancy ministries, sidewalk counseling outside abortion clinics and political campaigns as they responded from their pro-life convictions following the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in 1973.

ECT’s new statement may be accessed online at http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0608/articles/ectstatement.html.

BOY OUT OF 2-YEAR COMA -– An 11-year-old Oregon boy has emerged from a nearly two-year-long coma and is making progress after his family was told not to expect him to recover.

Devon Rivers was struck by an undiagnosed ailment in October 2004, and his condition declined until he fell into a coma, The Oregonian reported Oct. 10. He was transferred the next month from a hospital to a pediatric nursing center about 90 minutes from the home of his parents and three siblings near Yamhill, Ore. He needed assistance breathing and anti-seizure medication to prevent convulsions.

A neurologist gave the family little hope, saying he had no reason for believing Devon would make a recovery, according to the Portland newspaper. A family friend, Sue White, hoped “they would pull the plug” to end the boy’s suffering, she told The Oregonian.

In August, however, the family noticed a renewed awareness in Devon’s eyes. He visually began following their movements. Soon, he was breathing on his own. He no longer takes anti-seizure medicine. He is shooting a basketball, working simple puzzles, stringing beads, stacking rings by size and making efforts to speak.

There is no prognosis yet, but Devon’s next scheduled appointment with the neurologist is Nov. 27.

“Devon may make a full recovery or what we see today may be what we get,” said Carla Rivers, his mother, according to The Oregonian. “God’s plan is greater than ours. There’s nothing we can do to force it any sooner or hold it back.”

ELDERLY ELPLOITED IN UNETHICAL EXPERIMENTS –- Four Israeli doctors are suspected of participating in hundreds of illegal experiments on elderly patients who did not or could not provide consent.

The four senior doctors at two hospitals were arrested Oct. 9, according to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper. The physicians serve at Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot and Hartzfeld Geriatric Hospital in Gedera. Among other charges, they are suspected of wrongful death through negligence and abuse of helpless victims.

In March 2005, Haaretz reported an Israeli Health Ministry committee charged doctors had performed illegal and unethical experiments on thousands of elderly patients during a period of several years. The committee reported at least one patient allegedly died directly as a result of an experiment and 12 others died during or after experiments.

Among the doctors charged is Shmuel Levy, deputy director of the two hospitals.