From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Task Force Sees Health as 'Our Shared Endeavor'

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Mon, 3 Feb 2003 14:49:18 -0600


February 3, 2003


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Task Force on Health and Health Care of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has prepared a possible
social statement on health, healing and health care that emphasizes the
need for a successful health care system to be interdependent.	The task
force finished editing "Caring for Health: Our Shared Endeavor" when it
met here Jan. 24-26.
     The ELCA Division for Church in Society appointed the task force
after the ELCA's 1999 Churchwide Assembly asked for a proposed social
statement on health care, said the Rev. Ronald W. Duty, associate
director for studies, ELCA Division for Church in Society.
     When the division's board meets here Feb. 20-22, it will consider
adopting the proposed social statement and asking the ELCA Church
Council to transmit the document to the 2003 Churchwide Assembly for
possible approval.  The council meets here April 4-7; the assembly meets
Aug. 11-17 in Milwaukee.  The biennial assembly is the chief legislative
authority of the church.
     "Throughout the document we want to say as clearly as we can that
health, health care and healing are interdependent realities in our
lives," said the Rev. Herbert E. Anderson, task force chair.  "We have
individual responsibilities for our health.  We have social
responsibilities for the health and well-being for ourselves and for all
the people with whom we live," he said.
     Anderson, an ELCA pastor, is director for pastoral care and
congregational life, St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle, and
retired professor of pastoral theology, Catholic Theological Union,
     "Our assignment was to articulate a theological formulation for
health, healing and health care," Anderson said.  "We were also asked to
provide a framework for thinking about the health care practices among
the various agencies and affiliated agencies of the church which engage
in health care services," he said.
     "We were asked specifically to address the access question -- the
moral dilemma and puzzlement in our society," said Anderson.  "How shall
we ensure that all people have adequate access to health care?"
     "Our way of addressing that is as part of 'our shared endeavor,'"
said Anderson.	"It's not the responsibility of just one unit in
society.  It's all units working together," he said.
     Task force conversations often came to the conclusion that there
is no health care "system" in the United States, said Anderson.
"Fragmentation in health care is part of the reason why people don't get
adequate care, aside from cost and all the other factors that are at
work," he said.
     "Government alone cannot solve it.  The church cannot solve it.
Third-party-payment people cannot solve it alone.  It must be a shared
endeavor," said Anderson.
     "A part of my worry in this process has been that the issues in
health care are changing so rapidly that the statement would become
obsolete by the time we finish the process," said Anderson.  "We want
this document to be an enduring influence and contribution," he said.
     "We can't always be as concrete about the present situation as
some people would like us to be.  Nowhere in the document does it say
anything about how many million people are without adequate health care
insurance, for example, because that would date it," he said.
     Anderson credited the makeup of the task force for keeping the
document fair and for making it a bold proposal.  "The vast majority of
people on this task force are lay people.  We have three physicians, a
professor of nursing, a professor of insurance -- people practicing in
health care fields," he said.
     "The task force appointed by the Division for Church in Society
deliberately included people with different perspectives and experiences
about healing and health care," said Duty.
     Task force members attended 29 hearings across the church.  "They
got a picture of what the people in the church were experiencing and
thinking from an even more diverse group," Duty said.
     Interest in the process has been high across the 5.1-million
member ELCA, said Duty.  In 2001 the task force issued study materials
for congregations, "Our Ministry of Healing."  The booklet "was so
popular that it sold out, and we continue to get requests for it," he
     The hearings and "hundreds of written responses" to the study
materials informed the writing of the proposed social statement, said
     The ELCA Churchwide Assembly is meeting under the theme "Making
Christ Known: For the Healing of the World."  It shares that theme with
the Tenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Aug. 21-31 in
Winnipeg, Manitoba.
     The ELCA is one of 136 Christian churches in the Lutheran
tradition that make up the LWF, which represents 61.7 million of the
world's 65.4 million Lutherans.
-- -- --
     The Division for Church in Society maintains information in
English and Spanish about the proposed social statement on health and
health care at on the ELCA Web

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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