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Ohio Council of Churches

Theological Grounding as an Ethical Imperative for Justice in Health Care

from the Ohio Council of Churches POLICY STATEMENT ON HEALTH

adopted by the General Board — May 12, 1999

Introduction

Recognizing that we are called as members of the body of Christ to witness to God’s healing mission on earth, the Ohio Council of Churches’ (OCC) General Board commends this POLICY Paper as evidence of its belief that Health Care Ministry is vital to the mission and ministry of God’s Church on earth.

Theological Grounding as an Ethical Imperative for Justice in Health Care

Wholeness, achieved through wholistic health care, is a critical issue in our Old and New Testament scriptural heritage and is a central dimension of ministry. Jesus’ ministry continues a wholistic approach which includes spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and relationship healing. Concern for the well-being of all of God’s children is an essential component of our Christian discipleship.

Whole person health care reflecting the heritage of our Christian faith, involves a unity of body, mind, and spirit, and is reflected throughout Scripture. The full goodness of the creation is to be restored and made available to all of God’s people. Health and restoration are essential aspects proclaimed in the inaugural sermon of Jesus (Luke 4:18). Beyond proclaiming the reign of God, Jesus came to restore God’s creation, and healing was a central focus of this restoration. Promoting health and wholeness is also a primary responsibility required of those who seek to convey God’s love, as evidenced by Jesus in the Gospel. There are nearly 50 separate instances of healing in the Gospel narratives.

Jesus commissioned the disciples to continue his mission and ministry, of which healing is an integral part: "He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity." (Matthew 10:1). The responsibility to care with compassion for "the least of these" who are in need of health care, or who are marginalized by the illness of the health care system, is clearly a duty of those who are Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 25:34-36). Healing, for Jesus and his followers, is done so that "the works of God might be made manifest," (John 9:3). We cannot ignore that Jesus gave the gift of healing to the whole church, through its people. The first disciples in the earliest days of faith restored the sick to wholeness (Acts 3:2-8).

As God’s people seek to make God’s healing presence known on earth, we are called to action by the Gospel, which liberates us from sin and empowers us to act on behalf of God for the well-being of our neighbors. Love of ourselves is fundamental: "love thy neighbor as thyself"; love is the stewardship of our own wellness and health. Both by its Scriptural and traditional heritage, the Christian community is called to care for and serve those who are broken by physical and/or spiritual pain inherent in or caused by our humanness. Attending to health care issues of our brothers and sisters in Christ is commended to the Christian community by the directive of Micah 6:8: "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?" God requires that we prayerfully do justice, seeking compassionate ways to meet the health care needs of others.

The justness of a social or economic arrangement may be evaluated by considering the concept of human dignity. Human dignity is that quality which flows naturally from the recognition that all people are created in the image of God, and therefore, are endowed with certain rights which it is the obligation of society and the state to guarantee. One of these rights is the right to adequate health care. This is especially so in a social and economic contact where there is a great disparity between those who can readily access high quality health care services and those who are totally disenfranchised from the system. Human dignity, as a quality imparted by God for abundant life for every person, compels us to seek to rectify this situation of inequitable access to health care services. Christians, therefore, are compelled to accept the responsibility of seeking to ensure access to adequate health care for all people allowing every person to act with dignity in pursuing wellness. Our loving God revealed through Scripture is committed to the practice of justice and equity for all. It is a justice which requires that to each is given his or her due as a child of God and each is a steward of the resources entrusted to him or her.

Having been created in the image of God, every individual is entitled to certain rights simply by virtue of being a child of God. An inherent right of every human being, without distinction of race, gender, religion, political belief, or economic and social condition is the actualization of his or her fullest health potential.

In grateful acceptance and stewardship of all God has given us — medical knowledge, technology, and health resources — we (as the church) are to responsively and responsibly care for others as well as ourselves, meeting them at the point of their need. That need may take the shape of providing education and/or health prevention, increasing access to health care services, promoting availability of medical insurance, supporting the development of health care institutions, or walking with persons seeking to integrate their faith with advancing technology in the making of edge-of-life health care decisions.

The Christian witness to God mandates that in doing justice, we "seek the lost . . . bind up the injured, and strengthen the weak," (Ezekiel 24:16). In commissioning the disciples, Jesus gave them authority "to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness" (Matthew 10:1). Today the Church, as the body of Christ on earth, in faithfulness to its God-given mission, is called to continue the redemptive, healing ministry of Christ in the world.

Faithful Reform in Health Care ~ P.O. Box 6174 ~ Wilson, NC 27894-6174 ~ 1-888-863-8910