Humility and the Denominational Health Plan


church_pension_groupThis is one of a series of articles about how deputies are making up their minds about the issues before their legislative committees.

Why is it I keep needing to learn the same lessons over and over again?

You know, the lesson that my world isn’t the whole world, my experience isn’t everyone else’s experience, everything would be all right if everyone just did what I think needs to be done?

To say it a different way:  Humility.

Take the Denominational Health Plan (DHP).  In my experience as a leader of a faith community in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, the DHP has no cheering section.   The cost strangles local mission.  Only 27 of our 108 congregations can afford a full time priest with benefits, and the number is shrinking.  And, personally, my experience of paying almost double the health insurance bill for worse coverage than I had been getting on my own has left me cranky.

So with all sorts of enthusiasm, my colleagues sent us to “do something,” and the “something” was to repeal the mandate for DHP participation, in light of the Affordable Care Act.  “This will be a ‘no brainer,’ a ‘piece of cake,’” they predicted.


Turns out, our experience isn’t everyone’s experience. For many, the DHP has been a blessing.  The cost of health care, though high, wasn’t as much as it could have been.  Many are satisfied with the care they are receiving. And yet, many, like me, aren’t.

Which leaves the question before the Legislative Committee on the Church Pension Group: What is a solution that can honor both experiences? How can we  best equip local mission?  Can the DHP continue to function for most while some opt out?   How do we decide?

Leads right back to the humility thing. Humility is openness, a belief that our truth isn’t the only truth, our solutions aren’t the only solutions. Humility requires listening. And saying prayers, and working in coalitions, and all that ‘being open’ stuff that is faithfulness. Humility is discerning that still small voice beckoning a better way, one that we wouldn’t have thought up ourselves.

For me, in order to hear that voice I must keep up those faith disciplines of prayer, study and Sabbath so I have some tiny notion of how to recognize that voice, and can gather the courage to follow, because if it is something I need courage to do, I figure it likely is a sign of the Spirit.

So in acknowledgement that the DHP works for many, our deputation has stepped away from the desire to repeal the mandate. And to acknowledge other stories, like ours in Minnesota, and many others we have heard from around the church, we will advocate for the empowerment of dioceses to carve some sort of opt-out for the most adversely affected. That sounds like a good via-media.

It’s this whole collective process that makes General Convention such an amazing place—coming together, members of the same body, with (ideally) an openness and good will for all. It’s sitting at the same table in our diversity. But more than that, it’s a sense of loving servanthood, a humility, the kind that makes us jump up to pull the chair out for each guest to sit in honor. Because our salvation is all tied up in the power of God working in us—each of us—to do more than we can ask or imagine by ourselves.

The Rev. LeeAnne Watkins, is a clergy deputy from the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, and a member of the Legislative Committee on the Church Pension Fund.