Contact NCC News Service: 212-870-2228  |  E-mail mailto:pjenks@ncccusa.org   |  Most Recent Stories   |  NCC Home

Religious leaders declare health care reform
‘has become an urgent priority’
 

Washington, June 19, 2009 – Religious leaders from across the religious spectrum have joined in a strongly worded declaration that current economic conditions have made health care reform an urgent priority. 

Signers of the declaration, which was drafted with the assistance of the National Council of Churches Health Task Force, will seek a meeting with President Obama next month to press the point and assure him of their support for reform. 

More than 25 leaders have signed the statement so far, and more are expected to add their signature before the end of the week. 

“Rising unemployment, underemployment and a decline in employment benefits have deprived many more of health care,” the religious leaders state. “ The health of our neighbors and the wholeness of the nation now require that all segments of our society join in finding a solution to this national challenge.” 

The leaders asserted that the nation can no longer afford to ”squander the hopes and dreams of the American people through a much-too-costly system that contributes to economic despair.  Families and individuals must be able to rely on affordable care in times of illness or accident and preventative care to safeguard health and well-being.  Those who are ill need the assurance that coverage will not be canceled by illness or employment circumstance.  They should also be afforded the dignity of selecting their own caregivers. “ 

The leaders promised to “pray, each in our own custom, for discernment, boldness, clarity and leadership in each segment of our society so that we may find the resolve to achieve health reform worthy of this land.  As we together pursue this vision our direction is certain-it is toward the common good.  The prospect of high-quality, affordable health care for everyone is a measure of our wholeness as a nation.” 

The full text of the statement follows: 

A MATTER OF HEALTH…A MATTER OF WHOLENESS 

Today health care reform has become an urgent priority, with many Americans fearful about the health care they now hold and more than 45 million lacking coverage altogether. Rising unemployment, underemployment and a decline in employment benefits have deprived many more of health care.  The health of our neighbors and the wholeness of the nation now require that all segments of our society join in finding a solution to this national challenge. 

“…Learn to do good, seek justice; rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:17

“…Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Matthew 22:39

“…Ye who believe! Stand up firmly for Allah, witness to justice…be just, that is next to piety.”  Qur’an 5:8 

"Our diverse communities of faith, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, are each shaped and guided by our respective sacred texts which compel us to speak out on behalf of the most vulnerable members of our society. Today that mea ns making comprehensive and compassionate health care reform an urgent priority so that all of our neighbors, especially the poor, children, and the aged, can be assured of the fullness of life that is central to the holy vision of a beloved and peaceable community."   

No longer can we afford to squander the hopes and dreams of the American people through a much-too-costly system that contributes to economic despair.  Families and individuals must be able to rely on affordable care in times of illness or accident and preventative care to safeguard health and well-being.  Those who are ill need the assurance that coverage will not be canceled by illness or employment circumstance.  They should also be afforded the dignity of selecting their own caregivers.  

Today we pray, each in our own custom, for discernment, boldness, clarity and leadership in each segment of our society so that we may find the resolve to achieve health reform worthy of this land.  As we together pursue this vision our direction is certain-it is toward the common good.  The prospect of high-quality, affordable health care for everyone is a measure of our wholeness as a nation. 

We pray that our best minds and kindest hearts might be joined in this effort so that all men, women and children will have the health care they need to live the lives for which they were created.  We stand ready to give our support and energies to its achievement.  

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian
Armenian Apostolic Church
President of the National Council of Churches
 
Rev. Dr. Miriam Burnett
Medical Director
AME Church Health Commission
 
Rev. Jerry D. Campbell, Ph.D.
President
Claremont School of Theology
 
Dr. Iva E. Carruthers 
General Secretary
Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc.
 
Bishop C. Christopher Epting
Deputy for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations
The Episcopal Church  
 
Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell
Ecumenical Officer
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
 
Rabbi Steve Gutow
President
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
 
Dr. Dick L. Hamm
Former General Minister & President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the US & Canada
 
Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
 
Dr. Michael Kinnamon
General Secretary
National Council of Churches
 
Dr. Ken Brooker Langston
Director, Disciples Justice Action Network
Coordinator, Disciples Center for Public Witness
 
Elaine Lee
Vice President at Large
Health Ministries Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
 
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in San Francisco
Chair of the Interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives
 
Dr. Eileen Lindner
Connectional Presbyter
Presbytery of the Palisades (NJ)
 
Rev. Michael E. Livingston
Executive Director, ICCC
Immediate Past President, NCCCUSA 

Felton Edwin May, United Methodist Bishop Retired
Executive Director
Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry  
 
Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley
General Secretary
American Baptist Churches
 
Harriett Jane Olson
Deputy General Secretary, Women's Division
General Board of Global Ministries
The United Methodist Church
 
Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk
Presbyterian Church USA 
 
Rev. Dr. Tyrone Pitts
General Secretary
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
 
Nancy Ratzan
President
National Council of Jewish Women
 
Rabbi David Saperstein
Executive Director and Chief Legal Counsel,
The Union for Reform Judaism's Religious Action Center
 
Dr. Robert Seymour
Minister Emeritus
Binkley Memorial Baptist Church
 
Ronald J. Sider
President
Evangelicals for Social Action
 
Rev. Dr. T. DeWitt Smith
President
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
 
Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed
National Director
Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances
Islamic Society of North America

Russell M. Testa
Executive Director
Franciscan Action Network 
 
Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ
 
Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada
 
Dr. Robert Welsh
Ecumenical Officer
Christian Church Disciples of Christ
 
Jim Winkler
General Secretary
General Board of Church and Society
United Methodist Church
 
Bishop Gabino Zavala
Bishop President
Pax Christi, USA

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , pjenks@ncccusa.org

Return to NCC Home Page