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1999 NCC News Archives

NCC Supports "U2K," Rally, UCHAN! Push For Universal Health Care
National Council of Churches to Join Oct. 22 "Call to Care" Rally, U.S. Capitol

Oct. 22, 1999, WASHINGTON, D.C. – Churches join the call for universal health care because of their commitment to justice and mercy – and their centuries-long direct engagement in health and healing ministries. That is why the National Council of Churches is supporting today's "Universal Health Care 2000 Campaign," or "U2K," rally, set for 12:15 p.m. today on the East Front Steps of the U.S. Capitol, said the Rev. Dr. Staccato Powell, NCC Deputy General Secretary for National Ministries.

More than 44 million Americans, including 16 million children, have no health care insurance coverage and 60 million are under-insured, reports the Universal Health Care Action Network!, UHCAN! That network, the NCC and the Gray Panthers are co-sponsoring today's rally and the Universal Health Care 2000 Campaign, or "U2K" and have enlisted hundreds of endorsing organizations.

"Behind the numbers," Dr. Powell said, "are names and faces of people and the American health care crisis impacts them in a very real way. And there are glaring disparities by race and class. Churches understand health care as a moral issue. Churches operate major hospitals, run clinics in poor neighborhoods, and support many congregationally based health care programs."

Today's rally takes place just over one year prior to the 2000 elections. Participants, including religious, civic, justice, civil rights, consumer and political leaders, will call on all Americans – individuals, organizations and political candidates – to put universal health care back on the national agenda for the year 2000 electoral campaigns and to take a pledge to guarantee health care for all in America.

Work will continue through the weekend at a conference for grassroots activists, co-sponsored by UHCAN! and the Gray Panthers. NCC Ecumenical Networks Director Barbara George will speak Saturday on organizing the faith community, especially on how to engage people doing frontline health mission with national advocacy for universal health care. And the NCC is co-sponsor of the conference-related "Faith and Health Care Justice" breakfast on Sunday morning.

Then, Nov. 11-12 in Cleveland, Ohio, the National Council of Churches will launch a faith-based community organizing campaign for universal health care at its two-day National Faith Communities Health Care Gathering, taking place during the NCC's 50th Anniversary Celebration Nov. 9-12.

The Gathering is opening its main plenary event to Anniversary Celebration participants as a forum on Nov. 11 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Cleveland Convention Center. It will feature representatives of congregations, community groups and denominations. Presenters will share stories of the health care crisis and models of organizing that connect local mission with the national movement, said Robb Burlage, Director of the Interfaith Health Care Initiative of the NCC's National Ministries Unit.

The NCC's General Assembly, its highest legislative authority, meets Nov. 10-12 in Cleveland and will be asked to approve a "Resolution for Renewed Faith Community Universal Health Care Campaign."

The resolution would commend to the NCC's 35 Protestant, historic African American, Anglican and Orthodox member communions and their 52 million members "a renewed faith community action campaign for comprehensive universal health care with democratic principles to which we have been historically committed; a campaign consisting of public education and action focused at the congregation and community level in cooperation with a larger coalition seeking to put this issue back on the national agenda."

NCC engagement around health care access includes participation in the Northern Manhattan Health Alliance, operative in the New York City neighborhood in which the Council has its national headquarters. "We are trying to feel the pulse of what's happening and what's being said around health care," Dr. Powell said. "Many of our communions are actively involved in that local health alliance initiative. We need to look more at how we interface with regional, state and local initiatives.

"As we as a Council celebrate our 50th year, which is a 'Jubilee Year,' it is even more crucial to invoke the biblical jubilee mandate to identify with those who are dispossessed and marginalized."

The NCC has enlisted the following endorsers of today's "U2K" rally: Alaska IMPACT, Fairbanks, the Rev. Richard K. Heacock, Jr.; Church Women United Washington, DC Office, Ann Delaney, Legislative Director; Ohio Council of Churches, Columbus, the Rev. Rebecca J. Tollefson, Executive Director; PROJECT EQUALITY, INC., Kansas City, Mo. the Rev. Kirk P. Perucca, National President and CEO; Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), New York City, Roy Innis, National Chairman; Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), Nyack, N.Y., John Dear, National Executive Director.

Also, the Arizona Council of Churches, Phoenix, the Rev. Paul Eppinger, Executive Director; West Virginia Council of Churches, Charleston, the Rev. Nathan Wilson, Executive Director; Montana Council of Churches, Billings, Margaret E. MacDonald, Executive Director; New Hampshire Council of Churches, Concord, David Vincent-Lamarre; New York State Community of Churches, Albany, Mary Lu Bowen, Executive Director; New Mexico Conference of Churches, Albuquerque, the Rev. Dr. Wallace Ford, Executive Secretary; Washington Association of Churches, Seattle, the Rev. John Boonstra, Executive Minister; CALL TO RENEWAL, Washington, D.C., Mike Bruinooge, Director; Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Portland, David Leslie, Executive Director; Illinois Conference of Churches, Springfield, the Rev. David A. Anderson, Executive Director; American Friends Service Committee, Philadelphia, Pa., Joyce D. Miller, Director, National Community Relations Division.


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