Published in Spirit, a new quarterly publication of the Diocese of West Missouri:
Some years ago at Clergy Conference I found myself in intense discussion with a colleague from the Southern Deanery. He was more conservative and I more liberal, but the discussion was really good. We were discussing how best to provide for the poor. What made the discussion good had little to do with how. We didn’t agree on how much at all. However, we could agree that, however much we disagreed about how, we were called as Christians to be concerned for the poor. We could disagree respectfully about the means because we could certainly agree about the end.
I was honored when Hugh Welsh invited me to write the first column in “The Middle Ground” in the new Spirit. His goal for the column, as he shared it with me, was “to find a middle passage (if you will) between a hot topic with a stated pro and con.” Certainly, there are a number of pros and cons related to universal access to health care. Whether we speak about “health care reform” or “health insurance reform,” there are certainly different points we might consider.
We can certainly have respectful arguments about the means. We can ask just how much Government action is required, and how much we need to focus on personal accountability. We can think about how to balance employer mandates and individual mandates and subsidies to help the working poor buy insurance. We can discuss balancing cost control for physicians with tort reform. We can discuss various means to provide access to health care for all Americans.
However, what we can all agree about as Episcopalians is that providing that access to health care is an appropriate end. In General Convention we have called on our government to pursue health care reform since at least 1985. We have reaffirmed it as recently as this summer, when General Convention passed three resolutions on to universal access to health care.
We take that position because it’s consistent with our faith. It is consistent with the Summary of the Law, that in addition to loving the Lord our God we are called to love neighbor as self. It is consistent with the Baptismal Covenant; for the Apostle’s teaching calls us to proclaim by word and example, serving Christ in all persons. So, for us this is the end on which we can agree, even if we see pros and cons about how.
Unfortunately, there are those who do disagree that this is an appropriate end. They may argue that we lose freedom if the government is involved. They may argue that an informed individual can make better decisions for his or her own good than any bureaucrat. However, if we listen carefully we will discover that their arguments come back to a single theme: that I have a right to make the decision that is best for me and mine without regard for anyone else.
That may be legal, but we wouldn’t call it “true,” because it isn’t true to the faith as the Episcopal Church has received it. We continue to believe we are called to love neighbor as self in ways that proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ. And so we agree that this goal, this service, and specific strategies to achieve it, like universal access to health care, is an end to which God calls us, even if we might disagree about the means.