Recently, the Presbyterian Church (USA) Board of Pensions, my current denomination, released a plan to change the current medical coverage plan in a radical manner.
I have to disclose something’s for you first. I am not officially a member of clergy of the Presbyterian Church (USA). I was baptized in a Presbyterian Church that merged to become the Presbyterian Church (USA) on November 02, 1975. I was raised in the Presbyterian Church for a good part of my youth. I joined a Presbyterian Church in 2002 and was under care at that church until 2008 as I attended and finished seminary.
I left the Presbyterian Church to serve a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregation, where I was licensed and ordained to ministry. [Why I left the PC (USA)] After three years of service in the DOC [Why I left the DOC, for real.] I left to follow my PC (USA) ordained wife to her first call. During those three years out of the PC (USA) I still maintained my connections with the PC (USA) and continued to serve her through the Young Adult Volunteer program as a mentor, small group leader, and friend. I also contributed to many discussions in and around the future of the church.
I have invested in the future of the PC (USA) with all my heart, all my might, and all my soul. I currently serve a Presbyterian Church (USA) as a designated part time pulpit supply. In this call I am contracted for ten hours a week and have no benefits. I agreed to this role because my wife has benefits from her full time ministry position at her church.
As long as I serve this Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation in the manner in which I do now I will not qualify for benefits. This is not a matter of me transferring my ordination over to the Presbyterian Church (USA). I am prayerfully considering transferring my ordination to the Presbyterian Church (USA). Even if I did transfer my ordination to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and served this congregation as I do now for the next seven years I get no credit for serving it in the pension plan. I also get no medical coverage.
My congregation in the only African-American Presbyterian (USA) Church in Oklahoma, we do not have a very large budget. I took this call knowing that they are offering me as much as they can. If they had more they would offer it to me. I know we struggle to maintain and fashion a budget of faithful action in out community.
I feel guilty writing this post, as the neighborhood directly surrounding our church is one of the unhealthiest zip codes in America. There is plenty to be done around access to medical care here. I write this to share with you who are managing the Board of Pensions and its future. This is how your proposed plan will affect my wife and I.
We as a couple are currently over $100,000 in debt to student loans, with 70% of this due to the cost of seminary. My wife is a full time pastor and the primary wage earner in our family.
Earlier this year (2012) I injured my shoulder and sought treatment through our health insurance. I stopped going to doctors’ appointments and other medical appointments due to the high cost of them. We could not afford the co-pays and co-insurances of the existing plan.
I was unemployed for over six months and was underemployed for three months prior to being relived by attending another graduate school to be retrained for a career in which I might make a living, outside of ministry.
The proposed changes you offer would burden us with an additional 45% of dependent cost of medical coverage, in addition to any additional dues my wife’s congregation cannot or will not cover.
We have put of starting a family for a few years now and in light of these proposed changes I cannot imagine us starting a family would be assisted by remaining a part of your proposed system. If we started a family under your proposition we would incur a great inability to meet the fragile limits of our current budget. In other words, this proposed change will have a deep and profound impact on our ability to be well and to lead others to physical, spiritual, and emotional health.
You are certainly making it harder for me to find value in being in communion with the Presbyterian Church (USA). You speak of the need to youth in the church and for new, innovative ideas and then you burden us with student debt, high medical coverage, and churches in which we are blamed for the lack of growth.
I pray for us all. Something has to give. In my prayers I ask for God to kill this system and replace it with one of justice. One in which humanity and care is given precedence for all. I pray that we take this moment in time to act like Christians and advocate for medical coverage for all in this Nation. I pray that we advocate for living wages for all. If we managed to advocate for healthcare and living wages for all my work may be done at my congregation. Here is a moment for the church, for the Presbyterian Church (USA) to be leaders again and do something this world gives a shit about.
I would be willing to pay more and do more if it meant that the Kingdom of God was visible in what we do in this world. I would sacrifice and die for a better world. A world that puts its weapons down and has compassion to others. I began this with a worry and concern about how this proposed action who effect my wife and I. I end with the effects this will have on our ability to be light in this world and what that will do to the soul of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Hot or old, there is no room for lukewarm in the eyes of God.