Thursday, January 07, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Looking Back: Breathtaking Decisions Conference

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 31 Num. 14
“Looking Back: Breathtaking Decisions Conference”
First Published: April 9, 1998

I have not yet had the opportunity to give you a report on our “Breathtaking Decisions” Conference (dealing with end-of-life issues and medical ethics) which was held on March 27, 28 and 29, so allow me to touch on some of the high-points here. First, the conference attendance was strong and varied. We had a large gathering of health professionals on Friday night and heard two outstanding lectures (one by Mark Ross, on Christ the Master Healer, and the other by Chris Hook, over-viewing the history of medical ethics and arguing for the significance of biblical truth for ethical medical practice).

Throughout the conference I noted that we had many non-First Presbyterian members present. Some were physicians and educators from Baptist, Methodist, St. Dominic’s, River Oaks, the VA and UMC. We also had educators from Mississippi College (School of Nursing and School of Law), Belhaven, Reformed Seminary in attendance. In addition, there were hospital administrators, nurses, and medical students there, along with many church members and lay people.

It would be impossible to do justice to the quality of the presentations by merely sharing a few words here, but I’ll share a few personal highlights. On Saturday morning at nine o’clock, Dr. Mark Ross gave a devastating critique of relativism. When he was done, it was very apparent that contemporary assertions that “all is relative” and that “there are no absolutes” are intellectually indefensible. This talk has far-reaching implications, and even if you are not interested in medical ethics it is especially relevant as we live in a time when many claim that they do not believe in “absolute truth.” Every parent and student in the congregation needs to here this lecture.

Dr. Chris Hook gave a moving and convincing presentation on physician-assisted suicide in the next plenary session. Many were stirred to tears by his powerful and pastoral message. I haven’t yet heard the tapes from all the “breakout sessions” but I attended Emily Thomas’ excellent talks on “talking to children who are dying” and “helping those who are grieving.” She masterfully handled these difficult subjects with poise and sensitivity. I know that many of us could benefit from further exposure to this important material. Nigel Cameron’s afternoon plenary on the Christian stake in medical ethics was superb. By this time, if anyone had come to the conference doubtful of the intellectual quality of the Christian contribution to the medical ethics debate — they were doubting no more. The theoretical issues addressed at the conference were done so by people with first order minds, while the practical presentations were consistently of high quality and usefulness.

Most of you were able to hear the Sunday morning classes, so I won’t review them here. I do want to encourage you, though, to purchase the set of tapes of the conference. You may do so by writing the First Presbyterian Church Tape Library (over eighty sets have already been ordered!). [editor's note: these may be ordered by emailing]

One last thing. Remember to come to the early service on Easter Sunday, if you are able. This will help us to more comfortably seat the many visitors who will attend the 11 o’clock service

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

1 comment:

John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...

FYI...might be interested in the radio show I did recently re: Dr.-Assisted Self-Murder in Montana;comments welcome.

John Lofton, Editor,

Communications Director, Institute on the Constitution

Host, “TheAmericanView” radio show

Recovering Republican