Written by Bennett Guess
In what it's describing as a "massive mobilization effort," the United Church of Christ will launch a major advocacy campaign on Tuesday, Sept. 8, to gather 100,000 messages to Congress in just 10 days in support of health care reform.
Leaders of the 1.1-million-member denomination, known for emphasizing justice advocacy as an expression of Christian faith, are hoping to collect "100,000 for Health Care" before Friday, Sept. 18, when the Rev. Geoffrey Black, the UCC's general minister and president-elect, will be visiting churches in San Francisco and will deliver the names — in person — to the in-district office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Messages simultaneously will be sent to individual petitioners' members of Congress, as well as Congressional leadership in both parties.
In June, the UCC's biennial General Synod, meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich., overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for advocacy in support for health care for all. In August, church leaders distributed to its clergy and members a nationwide UCC Pastoral Letter on Health Care Reform.
Delegates and visitors at the UCC’s General Synod in June participated in a march at Grand Rapids City Hall, led by Mayor George Heartwell, who is a UCC minister.
"This is a massive mobilization effort to interject a message of love, compassion and faith into this too-often divisive health care debate," says Black, who was elected by the General Synod to head the UCC starting on Oct. 1. "It's no small feat to gather 100,000 members, supporters and allies in just 10 days, but we want to boldly share with others the strong health-care-for-all message that was approved at General Synod."
At its launch, the campaign will be featured in the denomination's weekly e-zine on Sept. 8, on its homepage and in a series of messages written to clergy and church members by Black and the Rev. John H. Thomas, who is stepping down this month as the UCC's general minister and president after 10 years in the office.
The campaign is reminiscent of a similar 100,000-themed campaign in fall 2007 when the denomination sought a large quantity of signatures in opposition to the war in Iraq. At the time, two church leaders — Thomas and the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries — were arrested at the White House attempting to deliver the petitions.
"Two years ago, we were successful at gathering more than 80,000 names in pursuit of our 100,000 goal, but that was over the course of several weeks," says the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, communications director. "This time around we're attempting 100,000 in just 10 days, but we feel our people will beat the bushes to express strong support and deliver an outpouring of petitions."
The UCC is advocating seven principles it wants included in a health care reform bill: coverage for all persons; access regardless of ability to pay; a full set of comprehensive benefits; a choice of physicians and other providers; elimination of racial and ethnic and other health care disparities; waiver of pre-existing condition exclusions without age limits; and a robust public health insurance option.
Participate and learn more about “100,000 for Health Care” at www.ucc.org, starting Sept. 8.