|Doctor says churches need to promote health, wholeness|
Dr. Scott Morris, a physician and United Methodist minister, is the
founder of the Church Health Center in Memphis, Tenn., which provides
medical care for the working poor and homeless in the area.
A UMNS file photo courtesy of Church Health Center.
By Vicki Brown*
Sept. 3, 2009 | LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS)
The church’s role in reforming health care begins at home, a family physician told United Methodist leaders.
Dr. Scott Morris, a United Methodist and founder of the Church
Health Center in Memphis, Tenn., said the inability to deal with health
and wholeness is one of the fundamental reasons the U.S. health-care
system is broken.
For their part, churches need to do more than check blood pressure
on Sunday and host health fairs, he told close to 80 new district
superintendents and directors of connectional ministries.
“We need to explore what it means to have a healing ministry in our
congregations and in our lives,” he said at a late August training
event sponsored by the Council of Bishops, the Board of Higher
Education and Ministry and the Board of Discipleship.
“You cannot have a healthy church if you don’t have healthy leadership.”
–Dr. Scott Morris
The Church Health Center, a faith-based clinic, provides affordable
health care for working, uninsured people and their families. The
center’s mission is “to reclaim the Church’s biblical commitment to
care for our bodies and spirits.”
In his talk to new church leaders, Morris said often in his practice
a patient will come to him with a complaint about back pain or some
other problem when what is wrong is a broken heart.
“You can’t MRI somebody’s spirit,” he said.
In addition to ministering to their spirit, Morris said church
leaders have a responsibility to teach and model healthy behaviors.
United Methodist clergy are 20 percent heavier than the rest of the population, he said.
Church leaders were each given a pedometer and a booklet from the
Church Health Center titled, “On the Move in Congregations: Walking
with Jesus.” District superintendents should help the clergy in their
areas, Morris said.
“You can help them lead a healthy life. You cannot have a healthy
church if you don’t have healthy leadership,” Morris said. “We also
hope you will be advocates for your church members to lead healthier
On the national level, one way the church can help in the debate
over health care is to talk about end-of-life care, Morris said.
He noted that one-fourth of the Medicare budget is spent during the
last six months of a person’s life. For many people, 80 percent of
lifetime health expenses come in the last six months of life.
“The government can bring this up, but surely the church has
something to say,” he said, noting that health-care providers view
death as the enemy and believe it is optional. “We in the church
believe death is a part of life. Isn’t helping people to die with
dignity a role the church can play?”
*Brown is an associate editor and writer in the Office of
Interpretation, United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
News media contact: David Briggs, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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