My teenage son has been watching and reading the news. There have been many reports regarding legalization of marijuana in numerous parts of the world, and even reports stating health benefits. Are there dangers related to its use?
Every Church a Community Health Center
By Peter N. Landless and Allan R. Handysides
We’re excited about the concept of every church being a community health center. We’re also grateful for all the resources available to run various health programs. Could there be any legal concerns, though, if people were to think we were acting beyond our qualifications and thought to be “treating” patients?
As we see comprehensive health ministry gain momentum around the world, we too are extremely excited and enthusiastic about the concept of every church being a community health center. You’re correct in that we’re blessed to have excellent health programs and resources that we can share with the community. There are, however, a few cautions that have to be kept in mind as we embark on this wonderful ministry and mission.
First, our health resources must be reliable and well researched. The General Conference Working Policy makes it very clear that health practices in our institutions and our health resources must be consistent with biblical and Spirit of Prophecy principles as well as peer-reviewed, evidence-based scientific literature. These principles ensure that we share health information with the highest integrity and credibility, both inside and outside the church.
It’s always very helpful to engage health professionals within our congregations in the selection and presentation of health programs. It’s also important to involve them in the training of church members for the presentation of health programs and principles, so that every member can indeed become a medical missionary and health promoter. We should never forget that the relief of physical suffering and caring for the whole person are inseparably related; Jesus, our “Pattern Man,” modeled this special ministry.
Once people and teams are trained and church programs are presented, it’s imperative that each and every program be voted and recorded by the church board. This is required in order to obtain insurance coverage by Adventist Risk Management (ARM). Insurance is needed in case any lawsuits arise out of programs presented by local churches and church members. Without documentation of such board action, ARM will be unable to assist individuals or local congregations with what could be devastating financial consequences. Adequate planning and scheduling of meetings into the future will facilitate the bringing of each of these initiatives to the church board and ensure that adequate protection is in place.
Additionally, whether it be a smoking-cessation program or an initiative assisting people recovering from depression, we must always state both verbally and in writing that whatever is taught or shared is not intended to replace the treatment or management being given by any individual’s health-care provider. All our programs are intended to be instructive and most often preventive; we should never interfere with people’s medications or treatment schedules. In fact, should screening programs discover issues that may be dangerous to the health of an individual, we need to encourage them to consult with their personal physicians or health-care providers. It’s true that many lifestyle interventions can change the course of noncommunicable diseases so dramatically that medications may be reduced, but those decisions are determined by the health professional. There’s nothing more exciting than to see individuals who have type 2 diabetes and significant high blood pressure being able to reduce medication and enjoy better health. But we must be intentional in ensuring that we don’t take on responsibilities for which we are neither trained nor licensed.
These “housekeeping rules,” however, should not cause us to be hesitant or hinder us in our enthusiasm to share the grace-filled, precious gift of the Adventist health message with others. By His grace we can be conduits of the special love and salvation Jesus has for each of His beloved children. The time indeed has come, as Ellen White so profoundly and inspirationally stated, for “every member of the church [to] take hold of medical missionary work.”
May the Lord richly bless you and your team as you serve Him in this special ministry.