Canadian Mennonite
Volume 6, number 23
December 2, 2002

Re-claiming the health question

As we prepare this issue for printing, the daily media are speculating on exactly what the Romanow Commission on Health Care will recommend. They’re all offering advance glimpses—aided by Roy Romanow’s own hints, along with a spate of stories probing every possible angle on a subject which touches us all.

In the midst of this outpouring of words and experiences, Canadian Mennonite is also offering some stories (in the November 18 issue and this issue) which explore the question: What is the church’s role in the area of health and health care?

Asking the question is important in itself. For decades, following the establishment of a Canada-wide, publicly funded medicare system in the early 1960s, it seemed like the church put health matters on the back burner. Some of the health care institutions originally started by the church became large, publicly funded programs, and the church connection became nominal.

In recent years, however, the strains on medicare—with its cherished principles of accessibility, universality, portability, comprehensiveness and public funding—are prompting not only the public but also the church to re-visit the basics. And that’s good, because historically the church’s agenda has always included a vision for health and wholeness. And this vision needs to be part of today’s conversation about the future of Canada’s health care system.

The stories we’ve published are by no means comprehensive. They provide just a sampling of thought and reflection by people of Anabaptist-Mennonite faith—people who are either health care providers or recipients. However, they could serve as a primer to help the church put health and health care back on its agenda.

We encourage churches to photocopy these stories and to reflect on them in Sunday School classes, worship services and other such places. Here’s a guide to the materials:

•Begin with the seven profiles—three from last issue and four from this issue. Note what these persons are learning from their experiences and what they are saying to the church.

Ponder what it might mean for the church to be involved in the following: helping to empower people to deal with illness; promoting healthy lifestyles; taking more ownership in health-care programs originally started by the church; keeping global health needs in mind as Canada seeks cures for its own system. Ask people in your class or worship service to add stories of their own.

•Make time to study the issue-oriented articles in our November 18 issue: reports from the recent Canadian Mennonite Health Assembly meeting and the interview with Reg Toews and with Pam Driedger.

Note especially Driedger’s pioneering work on a vision and mission statement for Mennonite Health Services Manitoba. Even better, download the full text of the statement from (see mission/values section) for closer study.

Note how health care providers who subscribe to these values are aiming to exercise their ministry. Identify and discuss the many specific suggestions for involving the church, for example: in dialogues about human service ethics; in helping to identify unmet health care needs in the community; in helping people respond to suffering and death as part of life.

There’s a lot at stake for our country as it reviews its historic role in medicare and seeks to keep the health care system viable. There’s a lot at stake for our church as it re-visits its historic concern for a wholistic approach to life. A good place to start is to re-claim the question: What is the church’s role in health and health care?—Ron Rempel, editor

Copyright for the contents of this page belongs to the Canadian Mennonite. Please seek permission to reprint from the editor .

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