Mar 26, 2010

The Bugaboo We Call Health Care

I was in the midst of a three part series on vision and direction of our church, but have been interrupted in mid-stream by several of our faithful members who have wrongly heard information about what our church’s stance is on the current health care legislation. We UMs do not have an official stance, but rather a bunch of un-official stances from a bunch of random sources.

As several people have asked me, I want to respond with a collage of voices from our United Methodist Church. "Item One" comes in part from our Central Texas Annual Conference, the United Methodist News Service, and a quotation from Gregory Palmer, president of the UM Council of Bishops. "Item Two" comes from the United Methodist Book of Resolutions, and the last item comes from the senior pastor at FUMC, Houston. Thus represented in what follows is a wide swath of our church leaders.

1. Reactions to the health care reform legislative continue to circulate around the nation and our Central Texas Conference. It is important to recognize that The United Methodist Church has been fully involved in this conversation since John Wesley’s time and certainly over the past 8 General Conferences, always affirming the need for comprehensive health care that extends to all. We are a diverse people with many perspectives on most every issue — including health care. The UMC’s position is not for or against any political party or the specific bill passed late Sunday by the U.S. House of Representatives. It is simply in support of health care for all.

From a UMNS story released Tuesday: An attack on U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (a UM clergy elder in the Missouri Conference) — who was spat upon and called a racial slur by protesters outside the Capitol—offers an opportunity to model civil discourse and point to a different path. “It saddens me, the acrimonious debate both in Congress and in the public at large. We have failed to carry on serious debate without personal attacks and name-calling,” said Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, president of the UM Council of Bishops and leader of the denomination’s Illinois Great Rivers Annual (regional) Conference. “My hope is that the church would do such an effective job at managing its own difficult conversations that we might be a model for how the world can manage difficult disagreements,” he said.

2. The health care system in the United States is in need of serious systemic change. We call for legislation that will provide universal access to quality health care with effective cost controls.

John Wesley was always deeply concerned about health care, providing medical services at no cost to the poor in London and emphasizing preventive care. The first Methodist Social Creed (adopted in 1908) urged working conditions to safeguard the health of workers and community.

Through its many hospitals and health-care facilities around the world, as well as public-policy advocacy for health, The United Methodist Church continues to declare its commitment to quality and affordable health care as a right of all people (ADOPTED 1992, AMENDED AND READOPTED 2000; from The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church).

3. To our church family,

Friends, this is an unusual email, but something a bit unusual happened during the recent health care debate. The statement was made that the United Methodist Church had endorsed the health care bill being voted on by Congress. This statement was incorrect.

The United Methodist Church has long been on record as desiring adequate health care for all people on earth. We believe that is the desire of God. How that health care can best be provided, though, must be determined by the people and their government. The United Methodist Church has not endorsed any particular plan.

Now, on this question (as you would expect) United Methodists have many different opinions, and some groups within our denomination have been supporting the bill. We believe all United Methodists have the right to say what they believe. However, only the General Conference can speak for our Church. It last met in 2008 and did not endorse this or any bill.

Please join with me and others in your First Methodist family in praying God’s guidance for our leaders as they make decisions for our country and world.

God bless, /s/ Steve Wende

As you can see all this business about Nancy Pelosi thanking the UM Church for their support of this week’s health care bill was slightly misleading. We support health care for all and have for 240 years. But although we have many diverse stands on a wide variety of ethical issues, we rarely endorse a specific political party, agenda, or ideology. Stay tuned.


Debbie said...

We are thankful for your continued objectivity and professionalism.

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