The Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Health Care Act was remarkable in a number of ways -- ways that are suggestive for healthy churches. Most everyone was surprised that Chief Justice Roberts joined the majority, and wrote the decision that upheld AHCA, thus steering away from the ideological polarization that has characterized recent court decisions. Here are three aspects of the AHCA process from which churches may learn.
First, our governance system proved capable of taking on a major and complex issue like health care, reaching a decision and having that decision sustained by the courts. You had to wonder, in recent years, if our often grid-locked system could actually work anymore.
For churches the take-away is this: healthy churches are able to face into tough issues, reach a decision and move on. Unhealthy and declining churches often do not seem to have this capacity. Either issues are not faced or they are never resolved by actually making a decision. Such indecisiveness depletes the energy of a congregation.
A second characteristic of the AHCA appears to be that most people like some of it but not all of it. Some dislike "the mandate" but like the provision that allows adult children to remain on their parent's plans to age 26. Nobody got everything they wanted. Welcome to the real world! It's called "compromise." It's called "politics." You don't get everything you want.
And for churches too the capacity to compromise, to accept something less than what you exactly want is important. It's easy -- in politics and even more so in the church -- to treat our position as sacrosanct and to rule out compromise. When that happens churches are paralyzed and often are headed toward a split.
A third aspect of the court's decision, evident in the Chief Justice's rationale, was respect for other branches of government. The court was reluctant to overturn a major act of the legislative branch unless it clearly was in violation of the Constitution. The Court, that is, respected the turf and purview of the Congress, and minded its own boundaries.
In churches various parts of our governance systems sometimes don't get this. A group or board that has the responsibility for an area and a decision, will find other groups or individuals undoing or undermining their work. Minding boundaries is not just about sexual behavior, its also about governance. When congregations disregard roles and responsibilites and fail to mind boundaries the result is a confused and dispirited congregation.
The capacity to face and issue and resolve it with a decision, the ability to compromise and not get everything we want, and respect for different branches of government and their roles -- all are aspects of the Court's remarkable decision on the AHCA that have interesting and important implications for congregations and their health!
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