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Seminary conference to examine infertility & spirituality issues

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Christians should be slow to draw conclusions about infertile women in the Bible, said William Cutrer, Gheens Professor of Christian Ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Cutrer, a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist, will team with Dallas Theological Seminary adjunct professor Sandra Glahn to lead a conference on infertility and spirituality at the Louisville, Ky., campus April 1. Cutrer and Glahn, who lecture at similar conferences approximately four times a year, have coauthored books on infertility and sexual intimacy.

Cutrer, though, is careful when discussing the Bible’s relevance to infertility.

“The Bible is not an infertility textbook,” he said. “The biblical examples [of infertility] are there because they fit in the messianic line. God was doing a very particular thing. Childbirth is a good thing. Proverbs says the desire for a woman to have a baby is like fire for wood and water for ground. There is no satisfying that. It is a God-given desire.”

The conference will consist of four one-hour sessions. Cutrer and Glahn will address issues such as ways that men and women handle infertility differently, myths and facts about infertility, medical ethics of reproductive technologies and biblical approaches to infertility.

Such conferences help couples realize that their case is not an isolated one, Cutrer said.

“One in six couples suffer from infertility, and there’s an enormous number of pregnancy losses,” he said. “Probably one-third or more of all conceptions [end in] miscarriage. So this is not an issue for a very small segment of the population. It’s a large problem. People are sometimes comforted to know that they are not walking through it alone.”

Glahn and her husband of 20 years experienced infertility, pregnancy loss and failed adoptions before successfully adopting a daughter in 1995. Glahn will lead the session titled “Men and Women: Definitely Not the Same.”

“That may be one of the more powerful parts of the presentation,” Cutrer said. “We have seen husbands and wives come to the realization that they do approach this differently. Women often want to process it verbally, whereas the husband may just want to talk about it for a few minutes and be done with it. Women may see the man as uncaring, when in fact he is loving her as best as he knows how. We try to get the dialogue going and help them realize they are different by design.”

Cutrer will give the lecture on medical ethics. He wrote a book on the subject, titled “Sexuality and Reproductive Technologies.”

“The secular person may have no issues at all with frozen embryos and in vitro fertilization, whereas Christians ought to think through those issues,” Cutrer said. “I try to direct them into how to think ethically. I think there are things that are quite clear, and there are other issues that are gray. But they need to know what the procedure is and what is done.”

The conference is not simply for people who have experienced infertility. Cutrer noted ministers would be well served to learn more about the subject.

“For ministers, it is important to know how to know how to encourage, comfort and counsel these couples, so that they don’t say hurtful things — like on Mother’s Day having all the mothers stand up and give [them] a rose and a round of applause. There are ways to affirm mothers without causing emotional distress to the mothers who are unable to have children.”

Cutrer and Glahn coauthored “When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden: Encouragement for Couples Facing Infertility” and “Sexual Intimacy in Marriage.” They also contributed to “Genetic Engineering: A Christian Response.” This spring, their suspense novel on stem cell research, “Lethal Harvest,” is being be released.

For information on the conference, call (502) 897-4406. The cost is $40 for couples ($20 for seminary couples) and $25 for singles. Scholarships are available.

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  • Michael Foust