From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Assembly Adopts Social Statement on Health, Health Care

Date Fri, 15 Aug 2003 19:36:29 -0500


August 15, 2003

ELCA Assembly Adopts Social Statement on Health, Health Care

     MILWAUKEE (ELCA) -- The 2003 Churchwide Assembly of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) adopted a social
statement on health and health care, "Caring for Our Health: Our
Shared Endeavor."  The assembly adopted the statement Aug. 15 by
a vote of 935-34.
     The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of
the ELCA, is meeting here Aug. 11-17 at the Midwest Airlines
Center.  There are about 2,100 people participating, including
1,031 ELCA voting members.  The theme for the biennial assembly
is "Making Christ Known: For the Healing of the World."
     ELCA social statements are major documents of the church --
adopted by the churchwide assembly -- that address significant
social issues.	They are "foundations" for the church's social
and ethical response to important matters, for teaching, for the
church's advocacy work in legislative circles and for the
church's public statements, said the Rev. Rebecca S. Larson,
executive director, ELCA Division for Church in Society (DCS),
Chicago.  DCS is the churchwide unit responsible for development
of social statements and the church's advocacy efforts.
     The health care social statement is the church's eighth
social statement.  The ELCA has social statements on abortion;
environmental concerns; the church's participation in society;
death penalty; peacemaking and justice; race, ethnicity and
culture; and economic life.
     Before the assembly adopted the social statement on health
and health care, it adopted a series of minor amendments to the
text.  The Rev. Jonathan L. Eilert, ELCA Church Council member,
Brecksville, Ohio, who chaired an ad hoc committee that
considered the amendments from voting members, said the "changes
strengthen the document."
     There was some discussion on a proposal to remove a sentence
from the text that addressed malpractice costs.  It said
increased costs force medical professionals to leave poorer areas
of the country, creating shortages of qualified workers in rural
and inner-city locations.
     The Rev. David E. Monsen, voting member, ELCA Southwestern
Washington Synod, argued that the language should be removed
because rising malpractice costs are only one of the reasons why
health care providers move from rural areas.  For example, he
cited higher reimbursements from Medicare in others as a reason.
     Brian Rude, church council member, Coon Valley, Wis., said
the council was disappointed the social statement did not mention
malpractice issues.  He added that if the church is concerned
about health care providers moving, they "should also be
concerned that they are leaving rural areas."
     The assembly decided to drop the sentence about the increase
in malpractice costs from the text it adopted.
     The introduction to the social statement states: "Health is
central to our well-being, vital to relationships, and helps us
live out our vocations in family, work and community.  Caring for
one's own health is a matter of human necessity and good
stewardship.  Caring for the health of others expresses both love
for our neighbors and responsibility for a just society.  As a
personal and social responsibility, health care is a shared
     The social statement addresses the church and health care
crisis.  "The Christian Church is called to be an active
participant in fashioning a just and effective health care
system," the statement said.  "We of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America have an enduring commitment to work for and
support health care for all people as a shared endeavor."
     The text discusses health, health care, illness and healing
from a biblical and theological perspective.  It offers "a vision
for health care and healing as a shared endeavor;" suggests
personal responsibilities; the roles of the church's ministry,
congregations and social ministry organizations; advocacy; and
how to develop a better system of health care services.  It
addresses public health services, whole patient care, caregiver
support, research and technology development, and professional
     The statement advocates for equitable access to health care
for all, and suggests ethical guidance for individuals and
     "The gospel offers the world the hope of abundant and
everlasting life, that liberates us from idolatry of health and
fear of death," concludes the social statement.
     At a news conference hosted by the ELCA News Service, the
Rev. Herbert E. Anderson, Seattle, chair of the task force that
developed the social statement, said the statement demonstrates
that health care is a "common endeavor" and is not the
responsibility of one group alone.
     The statement emphasizes "care for the neighbor," he said.
"[Our] neighbor needs care, and [helping the neighbor] is in
Scripture," Anderson said.
     The statement can also be a contribution from the ELCA to
the church's full communion partner churches, he added.  The ELCA
shares a full communion relationship with the Episcopal Church,
Moravian Church, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., Reformed Church in
America and United Church of Christ.
     Calling the adoption of the social statement "satisfying,"
Larson said she and others involved in the statement's
development process "have a sense we have done something special
     "A social statement doesn't come out of nowhere," she said.
"It is a response to a social responsibility: the health care
-- -- --
Information about the 2003 ELCA Churchwide Assembly can be found
at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

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