Resource for Health Care Reflection

CHICAGO, IL (January 4, 2010) – Public interest in the current health care reform debate has generated numerous inquiries to Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) offices, asking if the denomination has resources and information that address health care.

The Covenant has been involved in providing health care from its founding in 1885, starting with establishment of the Home of Mercy in Chicago to address human suffering caused by a plague that swept the city at that time. The Home of Mercy cared for the sick, the orphaned and the elderly.

That ministry evolved into what is today Covenant Ministries of Benevolence (CMB). This ministry includes two hospitals, 14 retirement communities (including skilled nursing units), seven enabling residences for adult handicapped individuals, and other initiatives serving the sick, the poor, the elderly, the underserved and those at risk. More than $33 million in free care was provided this past year alone, not including unreimbursed care.

Medical care also has been a significant part of the Covenant’s world mission enterprise in countries such as Congo and Mexico. Additionally, some churches having parish nursing programs offering nursing assistance, while other congregations have partnered to start low-cost medical clinics in underserved communities.

Covenant congregations also include a large number of individuals whose lives are dedicated to the healing arts as physicians, nurses, hospital staff members, administrators, medical researchers, and medical missionaries. Still others know what it means to be personal care givers to family members.

The ECC does not take positions on legislation before the United States Congress or the Canadian Parliament, especially since complex and far-ranging legislation is often in flux up to the moment of a vote. However, the ECC does have a resolution on health care, approved by delegates attending the 1993 Annual Meeting, which can provide a frame of reference for individuals in reflecting on health care issues.

A Covenant resolution is not binding on individuals or congregations. However, resolutions are the product of earnest delegates seeking communal discernment on matters of public discipleship.

Following is the 1993 resolution:

WHEREAS, the care and healing of the sick and afflicted – irrespective of age, race, gender, religion, lifestyle and financial condition – was central to both the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ and to the mission given by him to his disciples; and

WHEREAS, health care programs and institutions have always been a crucial part of the worldwide missions of the Evangelical Covenant Church, from our beginnings more than a century ago to the present; and

WHEREAS, many suffer without access to adequate health care across North America as well as around the world; and

WHEREAS, current systems and patterns of public and private health care delivery are the subject of vigorous, sometimes acrimonious, contemporary public debate and policy analysis; be it therefore

RESOLVED, that the Evangelical Covenant Church unequivocally reaffirm its strong, historic commitment to health care for all who suffer from illness or injury in our broken world; and be it further

RESOLVED, that local congregations and individual Christians devote themselves with holy zeal to praying for the sick, for the dying, for health care givers, and for policymakers, both at home and abroad; to hearing and understanding the word of God with respect to sickness and health; and to acting compassionately and effectively in the name and spirit of Jesus by developing and promoting:

•    Parish nurse programs
•    Health and wellness programs for our congregations and neighborhoods
•    Letter writing and personal contacts to advise and encourage our political representatives working on health care reforms

A study guide on this and other related resolutions adopted by ECC annual meetings can be found on the ECC website.

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