posted February 23, 2004

Donald Cronkite on NCC Genetics Committee

Dr. Donald Cronkite of the Hope College biology faculty has been appointed to a multidisciplinary committee formed by the National Council of Churches to lead the U.S. ecumenical community's work over the next two years on issues of human genetic technology.

The Human Genetics Policy Development Committee and a complement of seven "Senior Sages" has been charged with replacing the NCC's 1986 policy, "Genetic Science for Human Benefit," with a new policy that will guide the council's educational outreach and public policy efforts in light of new and emerging technologies. The committee's 16 members and a complementary consulting group of seven "Senior Sages" represent a range of denominational, professional, and racial and ethnic backgrounds.

A specialist in genetics, Cronkite has long been active in considering the theological implications of the field. For several years, he was moderator of the Christian Action Commission of the Reformed Church in America, the college's parent denomination, which considered multiple issues including genetics. Locally, he has been active speaking with church adult education classes and other groups concerning various aspects of human genetic technology.

He began teaching genetics in 1972 at the University of Redlands in California. He has been at Hope, where he teaches introductory biology and embryology, since 1978. His publications include "A Problem-Based Guide to Basic Genetics," currently in its third edition.

Cronkite has received both national and campus recognition for his teaching. In 1995, he won the "Four-Year College Biology Teaching Award" presented by the National Association of Biology Teachers. In 1991, he was one of only 700 faculty members recognized nationally with a 1990-91 Sears-Roebuck Foundation Teaching Excellence and Campus Leadership Award. In 1988, he was named a co-recipient of the college's Hope Outstanding Professor Educator (H.O.P.E.) Award by the senior class and also served as Commencement speaker.

The NCC's policy development committee will address moral and ethical implications of the whole range of applications of human genetic technology, along with such related issues as equality of access and regulation.The committee will build on work done by an earlier Exploratory Committee on Human Genetic Technologies, which in 2002-03 reviewed NCC and member communion statements, studies and other materials concerning biotechnology along with their existing education, outreach and advocacy work related to biotechnology and public policy. The exploratory committee's report and recommendations were delivered to the NCC's 2003 General Assembly and resulted in the call for a new policy.