President Obama to Take Part in Faith Community Conference Call on Healthcare Reform

August 14, 2009

General Board of Church and Society among sponsors of historic August 19 call-in event


WASHINGTON, D.C. - The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) is co-sponsor of an unprecedented nationwide faith community call-in and audio webcast on healthcare reform featuring President Obama - on Wednesday, August 19. The event, "40 Minutes for Health Reform," will take place from 2 to 2:40 p.m. PDT.


Sponsors of the event support the need for healthcare reform in the United States, but no specific legislation will be endorsed during the call. Instead, the call is to provide the most up-to-date information about proposed legislation, and will focus on healthcare reform as a moral imperative.


President Obama will urge the faith community to action, and a high-level administration official will answer questions from participants. Questions may be submitted online after persons sign the electronic RSVP: United Methodists.


The call will be hosted by Blog Talk Radio. Participation is unlimited. Participants may either log on to at the time of the call or dial 347.996.5501; no pass code is necessary, but long distance charges may apply.


The President's decision to address the healthcare debate specifically with the faith community demonstrates how important religious organizations are to passing reform, according to the Rev. Cynthia Abrams, director of GBCS's work area on Alcohol, Other Addictions and Health Care. "The faith community's engagement in the debate is desperately needed to pass reform," she said. "Special interests are trying to hijack the debate with misinformation, [and] negative and disruptive tactics. The stakes are high, because without reform this year, health care will become increasingly unaffordable or inaccessible to average Americans for years to come."


The call with President Obama is part of a broader effort to make sure that the faith community has a strong voice in the outcome of the healthcare reform debate. For example, in partnership with PICO National Network, Sojourners, and Catholics in Alliance, Faith in Public Life has released a new TV ad with grassroots faith leaders calling for reform. It began airing on national cable this week.


United Methodists are invited to participate in the "John 10:10 Challenge" to raise the faith community's voice in support of comprehensive U.S. healthcare reform. The challenge, issued by GBCS, is based on Jesus' declaration that he came so all "may have life, and have it abundantly." A new website, John 10:10 Challenge, contains resources to enable persons to be informed, engaged, and empowered to begin advocacy for U.S. healthcare reform.


The United Methodist Church states in its Social Principles (¶162.V) that it believes health care is "a basic human right." Last year, the denomination's highest policy-making body, the General Conference, adopted a resolution that supports a single-payer system.


That resolution, #3201 in the 2008 Book of Resolutions, urges United Methodists to exert influence through all structures and means "to connectionally advocate and fervently lobby the federal government for the adoption and implementation of a totally nonprofit health-insurance system, a single-payer system administered by the federal government."


The sponsors of "40 Minutes for Health Reform" encourage RSVPs for the call and/or listening online. Sponsors hope to direct participants to a website where they can sign up to receive action alerts to stay involved in the effort to reform healthcare.


Among the numerous faith groups working in collaboration to achieve healthcare reform are the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, Church Women United, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Islamic Society of North America, National Council of Jewish Women, National Episcopal Health Ministries, Presbyterian Church (USA), Network: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, and United Jewish Communities.


The General Board of Church and Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church, which has more than 11 million members worldwide. The board's primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education and Leadership Formation, United Nations and International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the nearly 35,000 local churches of the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center at the United Nations.