Monday, July 03, 2006

What General Convention Did: Policy for Children

As promised, I will begin looking at actions of the 75th General Convention that won’t make headlines, but that could make a difference in the lives of Episcopalians, and in the ways that Episcopalians can serve others. I’ll take particular note of those that have some relation to health care, but some of those address a number of other issues as well.

A good example is Resolution B018. It was submitted by Bishop William Persell of the Diocese of Chicago. The title is “Comprehensive Children’s Policy,” and the opening resolutions are as follows:

“Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 75th General Convention urge Episcopalians and The Episcopal Church at every level to work to ensure that governments provide adequate funding for programs that combat social and economic conditions that place children at risk or diminish children’s ability to achieve their full potential in the world; and be it further
Resolved That the General Convention receive and endorse the National Council of Churches (NCC) comprehensive policy statement, entitled The Church and Children: Vision and Goals for the 21st Century Policy. The Episcopal Church is a member of the NCC whose governing body, the General Assembly, passed this statement on November 11, 2004 to ensure that all children have the opportunity to develop and flourish.”

The resolution goes on to include the full text of The Church and Children: Visions and Goals for the 21st Century, which is too long to include in this post. You can find the complete text in the resolution here. However, the NCC policy statement is broken down into paragraphs, and each paragraph begins with a statement of the rights of children. I list those initial statements to give a sense of the breadth and comprehensiveness of the policy statement.

All children need to be part of nurturing communities where they are included as full members and participants in the common life of worship, prayer, witness and service.
All children have a right to be a part of loving and safe families. All segments of society share responsibility for supporting families in raising their children and future generations.
All children have a right to quality public education that fosters their intellectual, social, emotional, physical, cultural and creative development.
Every child has a right to live in a physically and emotionally safe environment that cultivates acceptance and peace and in which they are protected from the myriad of dangers confronting them.
All children have a right to express and celebrate their souls and spirits through arts, culture and recreation. Children need to have open time to dream, play and create.
All children have a right to economic security and economic justice: meaning that all families have access to food, clothing, transportation and safe, affordable housing, and that all families have equal opportunities to provide these basic economic needs.
Every child and family has a right to guaranteed quality, comprehensive health care. All children deserve to live in a healthy environment that allows them to thrive."

Under each of these rights, those who endorse the policy statement further commit to specific goals. So, for example, under the rights to “quality, comprehensive health care,”

"Therefore, we commit to:
Ensure quality pre-natal care is available for all
Focus on prevention as a key to preserving the health and well-being of children
Ensure that no children go hungry
Implement an effective health and nutrition education curriculum
Work for publicly funded, integrated, accessible and high quality mental health care
Develop partnerships for clean air, water, land and a healthy ecosystem."

If we will publicize our support of this policy statement, and will allow it to shape our ministries and our advocacy efforts, this could, I think, be as powerful and important domestically as our embrace of Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) can be internationally. Indeed, these efforts seem complementary to the pursuit of MDG’s. Imagine how our efforts abroad could be amplified if we were to parallel them with similar efforts in our own neighborhoods. And please don’t imagine that I want us to “take care of things at home before help folks in other countries.” That’s a common enough complaint on editorial pages in American, but it’s a false choice. We have been blessed with resources enough to share both at home and abroad. And at home we have been blessed with a system of government that is required to follow the priorities that we set, or face being the rascals that we throw out. This is amplified as our embrace of this policy statement puts us in partnership with other church members of the National Council of Churches.

I think that as we embrace the MDG’s and make that support public, we should also publicize our embrace of “The Church and Children.” I think it can help repair the damage done both at home and abroad to opinions of both the United States and of the Episcopal Church. This action of the recent General Convention is another opportunity – hardly the first, but certainly an important one – to show by our works the quality of our faith.

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