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May 9, 2000 GC-047

United Methodists push for adequate medical care for kids

CLEVELAND (UMNS) — United Methodists voted on May 9 to urge the U.S. Congress to remove the exemption in federal law that allows parents to withhold medical care to their children based on religious beliefs.

Congress enacted the religious exemption in 1996, and the petition notes that many children have died or suffered permanent injury because parents believe that the law allows denying medical care for religious reasons.

The petition on medical care was one of many adopted by the 992 delegates to the 2000 General Conference, which is meeting through May 12. The legislative assembly, which gathers every four years, is the only entity that speaks for the denomination.

Delegates defeated a petition urging states to re-examine their laws on divorce and to repeal "no fault" divorce, which allows spouses to end their marriage on any grounds.

In another debate, the General Conference turned down a number of proposals attempting to broaden the representation on the Judicial Council, the denomination's supreme court. The proposals were aimed at ensuring that each of the church’s five U.S. jurisdictions would have at least one member on the court.

The delegates approved a limit of two consecutive eight-year terms for members of the council. After the term limit, delegates voted that a person could be re-elected to the court after taking a four-year hiatus.

Turning to matters about cloning and other reproduction-related issues, delegates asked the social action arm of the church to form a bio-ethics task force to advise the denomination on relevant ethical issues.

Between actions, delegates took time out to commemorate the 55th anniversary of World War II. In a minute of silence, they remembered that 25 percent of the population in Russia was killed and that soldiers and citizens of other countries also died in the conflict.

"We remember that we are all brothers and sisters, and that every war is a civil war," said Bishop Ruediger R. Minor of the Eurasia Area with offices in Moscow. He asked the delegates to pray for the millions who died in World War II and in other conflicts of the 20th century. Delegates also prayed for the victims of wars in Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Chechnya and other parts of the world.

Delegates also voted to continue two churchwide initiatives that strengthen the black church and focus on young people.

Established by the 1996 General Conference, the Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century initiative seeks to reconstruct and revitalize the denomination’s 2,500 African-American churches. Delegates voted to adopt a plan of action as the basis for continuing the emphasis for the next four years. The program has a $2.3 million budget.

The Shared Mission Focus on Young People was created by the 1996 General Conference to focus the church's attention on the issues and needs of young people. The delegates voted to continue the effort, with a budget of $2.9 million, and to make young people a key priority for the next four years.

Delegates also approved two new efforts, a $3.2 million Korean-American initiative and a $1.8 million Asian American Language Ministry Study.

The language ministry study will involve researching the needs of Asian-American communities, developing recommendations, and establishing funding priorities.

Estimated costs for the four ministries were referred to the church’s finance and administration agency.

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--Linda Green

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