It was great to see some of you at Ministry Fair this past weekend! Our continuing diocesan discussion centering on “The Waters of Reconciliation” remains as relevant now as it was when we began this conversation a couple of years ago at our Diocesan Convention. We began our day together with a thought-provoking keynote address by Heidi Kim, The Episcopal Church’s Missioner for Racial Reconciliation, who noted that, as a nation, “we have strengthened the barriers between us and them” which is contrary to our call to love ALL our neighbors. Daily, we are forced to question the very nature of truth as we encounter facts and “alternative facts.” Yet, as Episcopalians, we must be committed to live out the mission of our Church as defined in our Catechism (BCP p 854):
Q. What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
Q. How does the Church pursue its mission?
A. The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.
Q. Through whom does the Church carry out its mission?
A. The Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members.
This last week we learned that we have much more work to do to pursue our mission promoting “justice, peace and love” after the passage of the new American Health Care Act (AHCA) by the House of Representatives. From all I’ve read, if the AHCA becomes the law of the land as it is written, many of the most vulnerable will face significantly higher health care costs and reduced access to needed treatment options. As many of you know, I have volunteered at St Peter’s Free Clinic, Hillsdale, for the last 15 years and have been delighted to watch our census get smaller as more and more of our clients enrolled in coverage through either the Affordable Care Act Marketplace or through the Medicaid Expansion. We were truly hoping to work ourselves out of our jobs at the clinic! More patients for us means more people are unable to have primary care physicians who can provide continuity of care, more emergency room visits for non-emergency illness, and more acute illnesses that, left-untreated, will become chronic. For me, this is not a political issue; it’s an issue of justice and equity.
Not surprisingly, there is a resolution that addresses this very concern: A092 Affirm Support for Government Entitlements. This is one of the resolutions from the 2015 General Conversion which made Covenant 5’s list of resolutions for congregational consideration at our own Diocesan Convention last October. The resolution reads:
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church affirm that God has provided for all of creation, forming a world of sufficiency for all, and that inequality exists not because there is not enough, but because of the way resources are distributed; we depend on God and one another and are commanded to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the suffering and afflicted; and be it further
Resolved, That this Convention affirm its support for full and adequate funding of social safety net programs such as Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), food assistance for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the National School Lunch Program, all of which lift and keep people out of poverty and address basic food and health care needs in vulnerable populations.
Should your congregation choose to work on this resolution together, there are a few things you might consider. First, you might hold a phone or letter-writing campaign. With the AHCA now heading to the Senate, we have the opportunity to make our voices heard once again. While both our senators have consistently voted “no” on the AHCA, this is a good time to let them hear of your support and approval. You can reach them at:
Gary C. Peters – (D – MI)
724 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Debbie Stabenow – (D – MI)
731 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Should the Senate amend the bill as it is written, it will come back to the House for a vote. You might consider calling or writing to the Representatives who voted for the AHCA last week and ask them to reconsider their position. Here’s a link for how everyone voted – https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/04/us/politics/house-vote-republican-health-care-bill.html?_r=0
And you can find the contact information for all the congressmen here – https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
Another idea that might have a broader impact would be to serve as your congregation’s “watch dog” for new legislation that could affect the other concerns mentioned in the resolution: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Food Assistance for Women and Children and/or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. You could also consider a congregational book club and read $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by H. Luke Shaefer and Kathryn Edin.
Heidi Kim reminded us that “prayer is not so much about convincing God to do what we want God to do as it is about convincing ourselves to do what God wants us to do” (Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers). What is it that God wants you to do about securing justice for those relying on government programs for to meet their basic needs? Prayer is certainly a good place to start.
Let us pray –
Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this
land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as
their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to
eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those
who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law
and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of
us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (For the Oppressed, BCP, p. 826)
The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council