This document reflects commonly held beliefs based on scripture which have been endorsed by the church's Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the Executive Presbytery.
How does the Assemblies of God approach the issue of infertility (a couple's inability to have children)? Are any of the medical procedures for overcoming infertility acceptable for Christians? What is the church's attitude toward adoption?
Though the Assemblies of God has no official statement concerning the use of artificial reproductive technology as a means of overcoming infertility, there is concern that procedures tampering with the human embryo (a fertilized egg after conception) have the potential to circumvent the sovereign will of God.
Infertility is not a new problem. It is as old as mankind. In Bible times the term for being childless was "barrenness." Barrenness was considered a social disgrace as children provided valuable security and were viewed as essential links to continue each family’s lineage and honor. Barrenness was so hated and spurned, it was often referred to as a curse.
Though the dilemma of being childless is not as negatively perceived in our culture today, it still remains a great burden to many childless couples because of its tendency to indirectly exclude them from the socially accepted norm of the family. This burden weighs especially heavy on Christian couples because of the strong emphasis of children and family within the church.
Christian couples who are unable to conceive children are not wrong in exploring the physical cause for their barrenness, or for considering options in medical assistance. However, such measures should only be considered in constant and prayerful view of biblical ethics and God’s will for their lives and marriage. To neglect God’s will and navigate a course without God’s guidance is often disastrous. The Bible records the story of Abraham and his wife Sarai (Sarah) who were barren and desperate for a child. Though God had repeatedly promised Abraham offspring and numerous descendants that would one day form a nation, Abraham and Sarah grew weary and doubted God’s promise. Determined to have a child, they ignored God’s promise and took matters into their own hands, conceiving an heir (Ishmael) through Sarah’s maidservant Hagar. This act missed God's will for them (Genesis 16). God’s timing and promise of a son was later fulfilled in Issac through Sarah (Genesis 15: 2-5, 21:1-7). But the result of this was that Abraham and Sarah reaped many negative consequences for disregarding God’s promised plan for their lives.
The Bible tells the stories of other infertile women who were healed by God and bore children [ i. e.: Hannah (1 Samuel 1:20), and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-25) ]. God often performs the same miracle today. Barren couples desiring to conceive a child should pray in faith and seek God’s healing. They would do well to have church leaders specifically pray over and with them.
However, if God does not remove the infertility, the couple should continue to pray and ask if He has a purpose in their childlessness that could not be accomplished with children. If after adequate time of prayerful waiting God gives no indication of a special purpose or ministry for remaining childless, some alternatives such as surgical repair of blocked or damaged Fallopian tubes, or the careful administration of drugs to stimulate ovulation (when physical problems can be corrected by these means) would seem acceptable. Taking medical action after earnestly seeking God’s will is much different from Abraham and Sarah’s situation who were given the promise of a child from the Lord yet impatiently sought a different solution.
Some couples look to adoption as the ideal solution. Unfortunately, the low number of children available for adoption falls far short of the demand of those who wish to adopt. The moral issue of childlessness then moves to the issue of abortion where hundreds of thousands of unwanted infants are not allowed to be born. Yet the low number of adoptions that do occur each year successfully fulfill the needs of many children and couples, creating good and loving homes, many of which are headed by Christian parents.
For Christians, adoption is well understood from the model of God’s love for the lost. "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty" (2 Corinthians 6:18). Galatians 4:7 says, "So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir." Adoption is a shining example of the ultimate truth of Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose."
The inability to have children is often acutely painful. Members of the body of Christ should seek to be sensitive to the hurts and needs of childless couples and be quick to give loving acceptance and support to those deprived of having biological children.
While there is great joy in rearing a child, children are not in themselves the source of happiness and peace. God is the source of life, and He is able to distribute true joy and happiness with or without children. As the Psalmist David wrote, "He [the Lord our God] settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children" (Psalm 113:9).
Over a dozen reproductive technologies have been suggested or tried by modern science. Many of them give genuine concern to Assemblies of God adherents. From the perspective of the childless Christian couple, the scriptural principle of the sacredness of the marriage bond must always be honored, thus excluding all approaches with third-party involvement (e.g., artificial insemination by donor [AID] and surrogation). Other methods that do not violate this principle are nevertheless difficult to defend because of the potential threat posed as medical researchers tamper with the conception process and the beginning of human life. When we hear medical technicians claim they are on their way to artificially creating human life, without reliance on natural processes, we know that modern medicine, which can be a beautiful gift when regulated by God's Word, can become an arrogant challenge to our sovereign God. We can never be a part of such disobedience.
The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise specified.