Richard Seed, the US physicist who prompted outrage last week when he announced that within three months he would begin work on the production of a cloned human being, has declared that he is "a Christian and a Methodist, and a serious Methodist."
Methodist churches in both the US and the United Kingdom, however - along with many other churches, doctors, and politicians - have condemned Mr. Seed's proposals. One church in the United Kingdom has already made a formal request to the United States government for legislation to stop Seed from going ahead with his plan.
Seed announced early last week that he intended to use the techniques that produced Dolly, the sheep clone, in Scotland last year. Dolly was the first mammal cloned from an adult animal cell. Cloning starts with a single cell, whose genes are fused with a specially treated donor egg.
Seed, who lives in Chicago, said that he planned to create an infertility clinic and eventually produce 500 human clones a year. In an interview on Fox television on Jan. 8, Seed said that man, by extending his existence through cloning, would "become one with God." He added that he also intended to clone himself and his wife.
Thom White Wolf Fasset, general secretary of the United Methodist Church's Board of Church and Society, based in Washington, yesterday issued a statement calling on Congress to ban human cloning.
Mr. Fasset said a United Methodist Genetic Science Task Force - composed of theologians, biologists and other specialists - had called for a ban on all human cloning, whether funded by the government or private sources. In the United Kingdom, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990 banned human cloning.
A spokesman for the Church of England, Steve Jenkins said: "The concerns are both theological and scientific. The church feels scientific interventions of a therapeutic nature are OK. This includes assisted conception. Creating a child by cloning would be different - it takes away the combination of individuals which is part of conception. It is playing God."
The Catholic Media Office in London, quoting a Vatican document, Reflections on Cloning, published last year, said: "There are two fundamental moral objections to cloning. The first reason is the dignity of human procreation. Each human person should have the right to be born of the natural sexual union of a man and woman. Cloning would be a denial of this process and this right.
"The second is related to the dignity that is to be accorded to each person without discrimination. If a cloning programme is aimed at the production of genetically engineered human beings and is subordinating these beings to the use, purposes or satisfaction of others, this is intrinsically wrong."
Dr Donald Bruce, a leading British bio-ethicist, has warned that attempts at human cloning could face some major technical obstacles. "No one knows if it is possible to clone a human being. At the moment it's all hype. There are substantial differences in embryology [between humans and sheep].
"The present proposal may be wacky, but other people with more credentials may well be following."