The nation was divided in response to the health care bill signed into law on March 23 -– and so was Holston Conference.
The Call2's March 29 edition included a commentary by the Rev. Ron Matthews, Holston Conference director of communication and executive assistant to Bishop James Swanson. In his commentary, Matthews explained why the United Methodist Church advocates for health care reform -- as stated in the Book of Discipline and approved by the 2008 General Conference.
More than 20 readers responded to Matthews’ column through the email-address firstname.lastname@example.org. Most opposed the United Methodist Church’s stance. Some expressed anger.
“I have been an active member of the Methodist church for over 35 years,” wrote one woman from Ketron Memorial UMC, Kingsport District. “But when the church starts voting on supporting gay marriages and supporting socialism, it is time to leave. Best of luck on this ever left-moving, sinking Methodist ship. May God have mercy on you and others who think likewise.”
“The Methodist church believes in hell also,” stated a reader from First Bulls Gap UMC, Morristown District. “Does that mean we should try it to see if we want to go there? Get out of politics and really try to save souls, or the church numbers will be going lower.”
A few readers expressed regret for not having knowledge of the United Methodist Church’s “Social Principles," while defending Christian values.
“I love my church, but I obviously have not spent enough time reading the Book of Discipline or the resolutions from the 2008 [General Conference] to keep me from being surprised when [U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] named the United Methodist Church as a supporter of the current health care bill,” wrote a reader from First Farragut UMC, Oak Ridge District. “I will take responsibility for not being informed. However, please do not dismiss me or others that object to what has happened as being angry or uncaring. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem, and I am seriously concerned that government is now part of the problem and not part of the solution.”
Several readers expressed concern for the nation’s fiscal future:
“John Wesley would not approve of this,” wrote one reader from Central Lenoir City UMC, Oak Ridge District. “Help the poor, yes, but not at this expense. What does this expense say about good stewardship of money? Money seems to be the only thing our denomination listens to, so perhaps I need to find another avenue to give for a worthy cause rather than the church.”
A member from St. Marks UMC in Maryville District responded:
“Taking money away from other programs to pay for this exorbitant health care can be better used when it is taken away from [Michelle Obama’s] multitude of ‘assistants’ that no other first lady has had to have. Take away all of the ‘czars’ that [President Barack Obama] has appointed and the money that we as taxpayers are footing the bill for, and we can soon find a much better way to do business.”
Another reader from Jellico UMC in Oak Ridge District questioned:
“Why do you suggest that putting our country in fiscal ruin and bankruptcy is social justice? Can you not see that our Christian founders did not call this social justice?”
While most responses e-mailed to The Call opposed health care reform, comments made on The Call's Facebook page seemed more evenly divided. Only a few e-mail responses expressed approval for the column by Matthews:
“Please record my deep gratitude for publishing Ron Matthews’s statement on the health care reform matter,” wrote a Chattanooga District member. “His position is no surprise to me, but is good for it to be published by The Call so that all who read the paper will understand that our church has a deep, sincere interest in caring for the health care of all persons.”
Another reader, from Munsey Memorial UMC in Johnson City District, responded with a question:
“We do need health care reform, and now that it is here, we need to do everything possible to make it better. At the same time, if we as Christians did as commanded, would the need be as great? When was the last time we invited a stranger to stay with us so that we could care for him?”
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