By Rob Renfroe and Walter Fenton
Good News believes faithful United Methodists are people passionately committed to Scriptural holiness, and that most assuredly includes our founder John Wesley’s emphasis on “social holiness.” Rank and file United Methodists care deeply about the health and welfare of people throughout this country, and in deeds large and small, find many ways to demonstrate that care. Certainly all United Methodists look forward to a time when all Americans possess adequate health care.
However, some have confused support of the specific plan recently passed by Congress as evidence of an individual’s true commitment to health care for all. While some United Methodists consider the health care reform bill passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Barack Obama as a political triumph, others find the legislation disconcerting and disappointing.
First, Good News was disappointed that a number of pro-life Democrats abandoned their commitment to language they themselves insisted upon in the House bill approved this past November. The promise of an executive order that no public funds will be used to pay for abortions, simply does not have the same force as a law duly debated and passed by the legislative branch, and signed by the President. As Wall Street Journal columnist Bill McGurn recently wrote, “all that has to happen for…federal dollars to start flowing for abortion is for NARAL Pro-Choice America to sponsor a woman demanding an abortion. The center will initially deny funding, citing the executive order. The woman will then sue, arguing that abortion is a part of health care. Given the legal precedents, and the lack of a specific ban in the actual legislation, the courts will likely agree.”
Second, Good News regrets that a bipartisan approach to health care reform was not adopted. When a bill of this magnitude is passed with the slimmest of majorities and only single party support, it appears that doing business as usual has not changed. In short, the way this bill was passed only feeds the current distrust and low regard many Americans have for Washington.
Third, we find it very difficult to support legislation that does not deal forthrightly about the costs involved. What kind of crushing debt will future generations have to bear? It appears that those who promoted the bill and voted for it either postponed to another day many of the tax increases necessary to fund the massive plan, or they naively—we hope not cynically—convinced themselves that future congressional representatives will have the integrity and courage to tell the American people the truth about the plan’s actual costs. Politically speaking, it is easy to vote for health care for all, but it is far more difficult to honestly explain how we will pay for it.
Finally, Good News would like to register its deep disappointment with the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society (GBCS). Rather than engage the issue of health care reform in a manner representing the hopes and concerns of all United Methodists, it has once again embraced and advocated for the most liberal and polemical position. Unfortunately, the board chose to feverishly work for a particular plan that divided United Methodists. A more thoughtful board would have simply promoted the goal of health care for all, but would not have sided with one particular party’s plan. By so publicly making common cause with a partisan plan, many church members will view GBCS more as an agent of a particular political party, and less as an agent of the kingdom of God.
Throughout the debate, GBCS failed to seriously acknowledge or fairly represent other proposals for meeting the health care needs of Americans. Once again, GBCS alienated thousands of United Methodists, and caused many to wonder whether the board can ever fairly represent them in the public square, even going so far as to advocate for the most extreme iterations of the bill that included federal funding for abortion.
Indeed, despite GBCS’s self-congratulations, it actually failed to convince most United Methodist congressional representatives to support the bill. Forty-four United Methodists currently serve in the House of Representatives, 26 voted in opposition to the bill, and only 18 voted for it. In other words, nearly 60 percent of United Methodist representatives opposed the bill. We are confident that split is far more representative of United Methodists than the far left views advocated by GBCS throughout the 14 month debate over health care reform.
Rob Renfroe is the President and Publisher of Good News. Walter Fenton is the Chief Operating Officer of Good News.
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(Good News is an evangelical renewal group within the United Methodist Church.)