June 2009


The United Church of Christ’s General Synod has passed a resolution declaring its support for H.R. 676, a piece of legislation that would mandate a single-payer system of health insurance in the United States. According to UCC News:

Citing both specificity and urgency, General Synod 27 passed without amendment Tuesday a resolution “Calling for the Support of H.R. 676 – Single Payer National Health Care Reform to Advance Health Equity for All and to Eliminate Health Disparities.”

Mary Beth Cross, a delegate from the Nebraska Conference, said after a unanimous vote out of committee Monday that the time to rally is now. “This is a Gospel-mandated mission of faith for everyone to make sure that universal health care becomes a reality.”

The thing is, of course, that as the title of the resolution shows, it isn’t “universal health care” that Ms. Cross and her fellow delegates are interested in. What really floats their boat is the idea of “health equity,” which is to say that people of greater means would be prohibited from getting better care than those of lesser–in effect, mandating that everyone get the same rationed, Canadian-style care that has been driving folks from the Frozen North to seek treatment in the U.S., lest they die while waiting for said care.

“We lift up our (belief) that all persons deserve and must have quality, accessible, affordable health care and related social services – including mental-health service and full accessibility for the disabled,” said Baylor.

H.R. 676 (the U.S. National Health Insurance Act) is a bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers of Michigan to create a single-payer, publicly financed, privately delivered universal health-care program. Its goal is to cover all Americans without charging co-pays or deductibles and guarantees access to the highest quality and most affordable health-care services regardless of employment, ability to pay or pre-existing health conditions.

Well, that’s one description of it. A quick read of the bill (something I doubt most of the delegates did before they voted for a resolution that goes way beyond the competency of a church body) indicates that Conyers’ real aim seems to be to eliminate all profit from the practice of medicine. His bill prohibits private health insurance except for stuff like cosmetic surgery or dentistry, and also declares that the only medical providers that qualify for his government program are those that are “public” or “non-profit.” Given the decay of services in virtually any other industry when the profit motive is eliminated by the force of law, it’s virtually inevitable that the quality of health care in the United State would drop considerably under Conyers’ plan (and of course rationing is a certainty, given that it is the universal result of single-payer systems).

But everyone would be equal. In other news, the UCC recommends that Harrison Bergeron be made America’s patron saint.

The Republicans were essentially threatened and terrorized against voting for revenue [i.e., higher taxes--DSF]. Now [some] are facing recalls. They operate under a terrorist threat: “You vote for revenue and your career is over.” I don’t know why we allow that kind of terrorism to exist. I guess it’s about free speech, but it’s extremely unfair.

–Speaker of the California Assembly Karen Bass, giving us a creepy look inside the skull of a state legislator as she laments the rights of constituents to communicate with their elected representatives and vote against them when they run for re-election, calling such outrageous action on the part of the citizenry “terrorism,” and providing a splendid rationale for her constituents to explode an electoral IED under her tyrant-wannabe backside come the next election

(Via Hot Air.)

The United Church of Christ biannual General Synod is meeting this week, and that guarantees there will be plenty of weirdness to comment on. Exhibit A is the preacher who spoke to a group of synod delegates on Saturday:

His Gospel of Inclusion created controversy in the Church of God in Christ. But Bishop Carlton Pearson says his life is “one big memorial.”

“I am remembering that I love you and I know you.”

A longtime member of the African American Pentecostal Bishops Conference – a group that came to declare him a heretic – Pearson spoke Saturday afternoon to a group of delegates and visitors to the UCC General Synod 27.

His separation from the Pentecostal movement occurred when he “could not reconcile the absolute love of God for all” with the concept of God “who would eternally torture.”

“I could no longer hide my theological crisis. I did not have permission to love people” with an opposing theology. “But in my heart I felt related to the stranger.”

Pearson discovered his religion was creating barrier between himself and those he felt called to serve. “I’ve dismissed so many people to hell,” but, “God is love.” He says the UCC message of inclusion is empowering.

“Did Jesus come to protect us FROM God or connect us TO God?,” he asked. Pearson emphasizes that we need to give people permission to think again.

I have no real idea what a lot of that means, but I can tell you that the “Gospel [sic] of Inclusion” that Pearson preaches is universalism, the doctrine that all will be saved regardless of faith or lack thereof in Christ. It’s a doctrine that means that actions and beliefs in this life have no consequences, that there is no reason to trust in Christ, and that God is not holy and righteous, but fluffier than your grandmother. In short, it is the perfect message to lead off a UCC synod.

A church that does not ordain women or openly gay people – I don’t see a future for that.

–Noted psychic and gay Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, commenting on the founding of the Anglican Church in North America, a conservative alternative to the dying Episcopal Church

(Via T19.)

Jim Winkler, the General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, appears to be bucking for the title “King of the Non-Sequitur.” In his weekly newsletter column, he let us know that he’s in favor of health care for all, and against lots of other things that have nothing to do with what he’s for:

We believe health care is a human right. We affirm the interconnectedness of Creation.

The “interconnectedness of Creation,” whatever that is exactly, tells us nothing about what is and what is not a human right.

We reject the notion that the profits of health-insurance companies should come before health care for our people.

Actually, I suspect that Winkler is against the entire idea of private insurance, preferring a single-payer government program, but since “profits” are evil, it makes a better contrast.

We reject the notion that we as a nation can only afford to cover just 16 million of the 46 million people without health insurance.

The figure of 48 million (which has crept up from 43 to 47 to 48 with virtually no actual evidence to support any of those numbers) is a myth. The bulk of such people are young adults who don’t believe they need it, people who make high enough incomes that they don’t need insurance, and non-citizens and illegal immigrants (who cannot be denied emergency room care despite their legal status). Covering 16 million may, in fact, be too many–according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the number of “chronically uninsured Americans” is between 8 and 13 million. That’s too many, but it requires a solution far less radical than what Winkler favors.

We reject the notion that we as a nation can afford to carry on two wars, but we cannot afford to provide health care for our people.

These two items have nothing to do with one another, and there’s nothing that says that if we weren’t in Iraq and Afghanistan, we’d be putting that money toward health care.

We reject the notion that we as a nation can afford to maintain more than 700 military bases and installations around the world, but we cannot afford to provide health care for our people.

If we closed all of those bases, it still wouldn’t pay for even half of the total proposed cost of Obamacare. Not that it matters, because neither isolationists nor pacifists run the United States, so most of those bases are going to stay open.

We reject the notion that multi-million dollar executive compensation packages must be protected at the expense of health care for our people.

See what I mean about non-sequiturs? What does one of these things have to do with the other? Does Winkler really think that if the government should confiscate every dollar made by executives in America? And if the government tried to do that, does he really think that any of these packages would be available for confiscation within weeks of the feds announcing they were going to do so?

We reject the notion that predatory lenders can make payday loans with interest rates of more than 300% per year at the expense of health care for poor people.

I’m not in favor of such loans, wouldn’t mind if they were outlawed, but have to wonder–what do they have to do with denying health care to poor people?

We reject the notion that the estate tax for millionaires should be repealed at the expense of health care for our people.

The administration wants to raise the estate tax rather than repeal it, which would add $6 billion a year to federal coffers, thus covering less than 1% of even the lowest estimate of the yearly cost of Obamacare. As for repealing it, Winkler is talking about a possibility, for the foreseeable future, that is roughly on a par with the restoration of the Romanov dynasty.

We reject the notion that trillions should be spent on bank bailouts at the expense of health care for our people.

Bank bailout money is being repaid, if slowly. If he wants to complain about bailouts, he might mention instead the tens of billions thrown down a rathole to bail out the UAW auto companies.

This series of disconnected items makes for a great parlor game, however. For instance:

We reject the notion that McDonald’s should get paid for their hamburgers at the expense of health care for our people.

We reject the notion that people should be allowed to go on vacations to Ecuador at the expense of health care for our people.

We reject the notion that fireworks should be shot off on the Fourth of July at the expense of health care for our people.

We reject the notion that government officials should be paid at the expense of health care for our people.

We reject the notion that anyone should see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen at the expense of health care for our people.

We reject the notion that anyone should feed pets at the expense of health care for our people.

We reject the notion that anyone should give to the United Methodist Church at the expense of health care for our people.

See? It’s fun. Feel free to give it a try in the comments.

The Fraternal Relations Committee is not one that I expected to mention in these reports, but they brought a recommendation this morning that I think is worth writing about. The recommendation directed the Permanent Committee on Fraternal Relations “to continue to communicate with the PC (USA) according to biblical principles and to encourage ‘face-to-face’ talks.”

There has been a stream of ridiculous and baseless accusations coming from PCUSA leadership and presbyteries over the last couple of years, as well as a move by the PCUSA General Assembly last year to “investigate” these “charges.” Viola Larson has blogged about the questionable approach that the committee doing this has taken, and among other things that might be mentioned is the fact that they have not, to my knowledge, made any effort to speak to anyone in the EPC about the issue. (I will gladly put up a correction if I’m wrong about this.) By far the best way to clear the air on this matter is through face-to-face discussion, and I hope that the PCUSA will take us up on our willingness to do so.

UPDATE: My Consistory-mate Mac McCarty, who is a member of a congregation which is in the New Wineskins Transitional Presbytery, offers the following regarding the doings of the PCUSA “investigating” committee

[A]t the GA, I met several folks whose congregations went directly from the PC(USA) to a geographic EPC presbytery. Their congregations did meet with representatives of the “investigating” committee, although the committee members were surprised that ruling elders and members attended. (They had “invited” only the pastors.)

Their experience was telling. After the pastors, elders and members related how their congregations initiated the move, and initiated the contact with the EPC, the committee representatives interjected with declarative “questions” such as “Well, you knew that what you were doing was wrong, correct?” or “You never proved that the PC(USA) was apostate, so leaving was a violation of ordination vows, right?”

When the EPC members asked their inquisitors “Wait, we thought you wanted to know that we were not recruited. It sounds as if you have already made up your mind that we were recruited, although we were not, and are just looking for sound bites to support your position. Is that correct?”

Stunningly, the PC(USA)’s response was “That is correct.”

One can’t help but admire such honesty, even if it is in the service of ecclesiastical thuggery. Well, not really.

Those of you who read Steve Salyards post at GA Junkie regarding the EPCGA know there are a number of issues that he mentioned that I have not as yet. All have been dealt with this afternoon, so let me catch you up:

Overture 9-A requests that the EPC develop a position paper “setting forth the denomination’s beliefs and position regarding stem cells, the human embryo, and related questions of bioethics and human life.” Passed unanimously.

Overture 9-B asks “the Moderator to appoint a committee to review the Book of Order with the input of the Stated Clerks of all presbyteries for the purpose of identifying terms, sentences, paragraphs, and/or sections which are not clear and/or may cause confusion when applied.” Passed unanimously.

Overture 9-C would change the rules in a disciplinary case so that if the officer renounces jurisdiction before judgment is rendered the court would no longer need the individual’s permission to conclude the case and render judgment if “it is necessary for the purity of the church or the benefit of the offender.” Passed unanimously.

Overture 9-D had to do with the affinity presbytery, and the resolution of that is in my previous post.

Finally, Steve mentions the proposal for the creation of the position of “co-pastors,” which came with a positive recommendation from the Permanent Committee on Theology, but a negative one from the Ministerial Vocations Committee. The GA went with Ministerial Vocations and turned down the proposal.

To follow-up on my report from day 2, the GA this afternoon passed the following resolution regarding the issue of women teaching elders:

That the General Assembly approve the creation of an interim committee to explore ways to provide a pathway to unity while protecting freedom of conscience among those pastors and churches with conflicting positions on women Teaching Elders in the presbyteries of the EPC. This committee will be appointed by the Moderator, will include two representatives from each presbytery and include all positions held within the EPC on women Teaching Elders. The committee will report to the 30th General Assembly in 2010.

The reference to “each presbytery” will include the New Wineskins Transitional Presbytery.

As the first order of business this morning, we passed a recommendation from the Permanent Committee on Theology that offers a definition of a “missional church.” I think this one is worth offering in its entirety:

Our denomination wants to clarify for its member churches who we are and what we do as the United States becomes a mission field that is larger, more spiritually diverse and more antagonistic to the Gospel than ever before.

The term “missional” has become common and therefore highly nuanced. We desire to define missional in a simple and specific way so that each EPC church can commit to a unified, obedient pursuit of the expansion of the Kingdom of God.

1. A missional church grasps that God is a missionary God and that “it is not so much that God has a mission for His church in the world, but that God has a Church for His mission in the world.” (J. Andrew Kirk, What is Mission? Theological Explorations)

2. A missional church believes that the mission of God is rooted unalterably in the Bible, God’s infallible Word. Therefore, a missional church believes that the essence of God’s mission is to extend the reign of God and is summed up in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. A missional church is a visible community of authentic disciples of Jesus Christ who gather for celebration, prayer and teaching and then disperse locally and globally as His missionaries to love and serve people. In so doing, a missional church both pursues and welcomes those who are searching as they are drawn into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The greater purpose in all of this is that the earth will be filled with the worship of God.

4. A missional church believes that it is more than just a collection of individuals, but that it is a community called together by God both to love Him and serve Him.

5. A missional church is concerned with more than maintaining programs for existing members; it is called to mobilize itself both individually and as a community to daily self-sacrifice for the hurting world around them. A missional church is both inwardly strong and outwardly focused.

6. A missional church perceives that the essence of these things is the essence of its existence. Therefore, a missional church will constantly seek to reevaluate itself as to whether or not it’s emphasis, organization, and activity effectively
positions the church to partner with God in His mission.

7. A missional denomination a) Believes that the location of ministry is the local church; b) Is made up of local congregations committed to being missional; c) Believes that the Presbyteries and General Assembly, being expressions of the larger church, have an important role to play in identifying, equipping and supporting leaders and churches. They are a key link in the principle of mutual accountability toward missional ministry and Biblical standards. d) Constantly examines whether its polity, structures and programs are supporting or inhibiting that missional commitment.

Discuss.

This is happening a long way from Brighton, and the story comes from World Net Daily, so the usual caveats about reliability apply. But if it is true, and the Ethiopians aren’t just pulling our leg, it’s going to be the biggest day in biblical archeology since the premier of Raiders of the Lost Ark:

The patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia says he will announce to the world Friday the unveiling of the Ark of the Covenant, perhaps the world’s most prized archaeological and spiritual artifact, which he says has been hidden away in a church in his country for millennia, according to the Italian news agency Adnkronos.

Abuna Pauolos, in Italy for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI this week, told the news agency, “Soon the world will be able to admire the Ark of the Covenant described in the Bible as the container of the tablets of the law that God delivered to Moses and the center of searches and studies for centuries.”

The announcement is expected to be made at 2 p.m. Italian time from the Hotel Aldrovandi in Rome. Pauolos will reportedly be accompanied by Prince Aklile Berhan Makonnen Haile Sellassie and Duke Amedeo D’Acosta.

According to Pauolos, the actual Ark has been kept in one church, but to defend the treasure, a copy was placed in every single church in Ethiopia.

He said a museum is being built in Axum, Ethiopia, where the Ark will be displayed. A foundation of D’Acosta will fund the project.

If it really is the Ark that they are bringing out (and again, I have no idea whether it is, or they just think it is), the most interesting question to be asked of the patriarch is, why now?

(Via Hot Air.)

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