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

Washington, July 7, 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, are gathering in the White House today in a "Faith Leader Summit on Health Care."

The purpose of the meeting is to explore best practices, identify common ground and share hopes and expectations for health care reform legislation.

Participants, including NCC General Secretary, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, are slated to meet with officials in the Obama administration and Congress to voice their concern for the status of health care reform and to speak in a unified moral voice in support of comprehensive reform.

Kinnamon's statement following the White House meeting is here.

The Summit is sponsored by The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society, in collaboration with Families USA and the National Coalition on Health Care. 

As the debate over health care reform quickly heats up in Congress, the religious community has the opportunity to play a lead role shaping the debates over this vital issue by elevating the moral voice in public discourse, informing and mobilizing the people in the pews, and lifting up communal responsibility to care for society’s most vulnerable.

Officials meeting with Summit participants throughout the day include Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) and others, along with Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. 

A number of Summit participants have signed on to a faith statement of support for comprehensive health care reform that will be shared with members of the administration and Congress. (See below)

Participants in the day’s event include:

-        Anju Bhargava, Founder, Asian Indian Women of America

-        Rev. Dr. Miriam J. Burnett, Medical Director, Health Commission, African Methodist Episcopal Church

-        Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK – A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

-        Mr. John Carr, Executive Director, Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development, U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference

-        Dr. Arturo Chavez, President & CEO, Mexican American Catholic College

-        Rev. Peg Chemberlin, President-Elect, National Council of Churches

-        Rev. Jessica Crist, Bishop of the Montana Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

-        Nathan Diament, Director of Public Policy, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

-        Rabbi Steve Gutow, Executive Director, Jewish Council for Public Affairs

-        Rev. Linda Jaramillo, Executive Minister, United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries

-        Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of Churches

-        Rev. Gradye Parsons, General Assembly Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA)

-        Rev. Dr. Tyrone Pitts, General Secretary, Progressive National Baptist Convention

-        Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Founder & CEO, American Society for Muslim Advancement

-        Nancy Ratzan, President, National Council of Jewish Women

-        Melissa Rogers, Director, Wake Forest School of Divinity Center for Religion and Public Affairs

-        Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

-        Rev. William Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention, USA

-        Dr. Sayyid Syeed, National Director, Office of Interfaith & Community Alliances, Islamic Society of North America

-        Rev. Jim Wallis, President & Executive Director, Sojourners

-        Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

-        Mr. Jim Winkler, General Secretary, United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society

-        Rabbi Jeffrey Wohlberg, President, Rabbinical Assembly

The full text of the statement follows: 


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 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 means making comprehensive and compassionate health care reform an urgent priority so that all of our neighbors, especially the people living in poverty, 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

Bishop Wayne Burkette
Moravian Church in America, Southern Province

Rev. Dr. Miriam Burnett
Medical Director
African Methodist Episcopal Church Health Commission

Rev. Jerry D. Campbell, Ph.D.
Claremont School of Theology

Sister Simone Campbell, SSS
Executive Director
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Margurite Carter
National Board President
Church Women United

Dr. Iva E. Carruthers
General Secretary
Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc.

The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane
Episcopal Bishop of Washington
District of Columbia

Bishop Ronald M. Cunningham
Ecumenical Officer
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Dr. William H. Curtis
Hampton University Minister’s Conference

Amy Echeverria
Columbian Center for Advocacy & Outreach

Matthew Ellis
Executive Director
National Episcopal Health Ministries
National Episcopal AIDS Coalition

Bishop 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
Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Dr. Richard 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

Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lindner
Connectional Presbyter
Presbytery of the Palisades (NJ)

Rev. Michael E. Livingston
Executive Director, International Council Community Churches
Immediate Past President, National Council of Churches

Marie Lucey, OSF
Associate Director for Social Mission
Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Felton Edwin May United Methodist Bishop (Retired)
Executive Director
Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry

Dr. David McAllister-Wilson
Wesley Theological Seminary

Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley
General Secretary
American Baptist Churches

Stanley J. Noffsinger
General Secretary
Church of the Brethren

Harriett Jane Olson
Deputy General Secretary, Women's Division
General Board of Global Ministries
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk
Presbyterian Church USA

Rev. Dr. Tyrone Pitts
General Secretary
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader
Ecumenical Officer
United Methodist Church

Nancy Ratzan
National Council of Jewish Women

Rabbi David Saperstein
Executive Director and Chief Legal Counsel,
The Union for Reform Judaism's Religious Action Center

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
Episcopal Church

Dr. Robert Seymour
Minister Emeritus
Binkley Memorial Baptist Church

Ronald J. Sider
Evangelicals for Social Action

Rev. Dr. T. DeWitt Smith
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

Daniel Vestal
Executive Coordinator
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Bishop George Walker, Jr.
Senior Bishop
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

Dr. Robert Welsh
President, Council on Christian Unity
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

The Rev. David L. Wickmann
Moravian Church-Northern Province

Jim Winkler
General Secretary
General Board of Church and Society
United Methodist Church

Bishop Gabino Zavala
Bishop President
Pax Christi,

Contact: Sean Thibault, 202-387-2800

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

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