|Commentary: Promote civil debate on health care|
Dr. Jeff Thill, a volunteer at Shepherd's Hope Health Center in
Orlando, Fla., examines Geannie Figuereo. The clinic, founded by
St. Luke's United Methodist Church, serves residents without
access to insurance or medical care. A UMNS file photo by Tim Griffis.
A UMNS Commentary
By Bishop Sally Dyck*
Sept. 9, 2009
“Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and
villages. He taught ... and healed their diseased bodies, healed their
bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart
broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd.”
-- Matthew 9:35-37.
I wonder if that’s how Jesus sees us Americans these days as we
contemplate and discuss health care reform: diseased and in need of
health care, bruising and hurting each other even as we discuss health
care, confused as we try to figure out what the proposed health care
bills really say, and potentially aimless as we move forward unless we
have greater clarity and civility.
Bishop Sally Dyck
Jesus healed people; that was what he did when he saw people in
need. As United Methodists, we have a long history of providing
health care and healing for people, especially the poor. John Wesley
started and supported a health care clinic for the poor in England. It
was ultimately unsustainable and unable to continue. In the United
States, United Methodists and other faith communities opened hospitals,
orphanages and elder-care facilities. United Methodists support health
care facilities in other countries, especially Africa, and provide
health measures such as anti-malaria nets, eye and dental clinics, and
When pondering hot-button topics, United Methodists often ask: “What
does The United Methodist Church have to say about this?” Our Social
Principles in The Book of Discipline 2008 state in part: “Providing the
care needed to maintain health, prevent disease, and restore health
after injury or illness is a responsibility each person owes others and
government owes all, a responsibility government ignores at its peril.
... Health care is best funded through the government’s ability to tax
each person equitably and directly fund the provider entities. ... We
believe it is a governmental responsibility to provide all citizens
with health care.”
Education is critical
Whether we agree with our Social Principles, we United Methodists
need to provide opportunities to learn, discuss and identify what’s
most important to us in this health care coverage reform debate. Like
at election times, a partisan approach is not appropriate. But there
are a lot of “confused and aimless” people in our communities who might
appreciate a venue for civil and clear discourse for this critical
I also believe that if we don’t reform health care coverage, we will
find ourselves in another economic meltdown in the near future. We need
to make changes. The question is: What changes should be made and how
will they affect the present and the future for each of us when it
comes to health care as well as our country’s economic stability?
Since there are many reform possibilities on the table, it’s hard to
know how changes will affect our churches and clergy. We are all aware
of how rapidly health care costs are rising. The expense has made it
nearly impossible for some churches to support a full-time clergy
leader. How will these changes affect our congregations? Our clergy?
What will happen to congregations and clergy if we don’t make any
What you can do
What can we do as United Methodists? I hope that you will think
about how you might reach out to those in your congregation and
community who might be “confused and aimless” about health care
coverage reform. I have a few suggestions:
- Host an educational forum in your community (maybe with
other churches) that gives a variety of perspectives and an overall
view and comparison of the various bills that will face Congress when
it reconvenes in September. If such a forum was offered near me, I’d
attend it! Your elected officials should be able to provide you with
some resources for this as well as other community leaders.
your core values—based on your faith—that help you decide the best
approach to health care coverage reform. Core values about this issue
might include, but not be limited to things such as a public insurance
option, who should pay for coverage for more people and of course the
proposal’s financial sustainability. Then listen and look at what the
- Vary your sources of information to ask better questions and avoid misinformation and rumor.
in civil debate about health care coverage reform. I understand the
emotional aspect of the discussion because whatever the outcome, we’re
all going to live with it for a long time. But if people are shouting
so loud that they can’t be understood or answered, it won’t help the
discussion and it certainly won’t bring clarity. I would hope
Christians would provide exemplary leadership for open, honest and
civil discussion on such an emotional and critical decision, for it
affects every one of us.
- Let your congressperson know what you think is best for you and our country.
Yes, I believe that we as Christians and United Methodists should
give leadership to all (including ourselves) who are “confused and
aimless” about this important issue. It may be an opportune time to
witness to our spiritual maturity (through our civil discourse) and
provide a need-based outreach to our communities.
*Dyck is bishop of the Minneapolis Area of The United Methodist Church.
News media contact: David Briggs, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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