Medical Debt Relief Campaign
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.
- Luke 4:17-19
Medical debt is cited by many researchers as the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. and one of the leading causes of financial instability for low-income families. The Emery Washington Convocation of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri is hoping to relieve that problem in our state.
Thirteen parishes within the Emery Washington Convocation (in and around the city of St. Louis) have partnered together to raise $13,000, which will cancel $1.3 million of medical debt. And now they are inviting all parishes and members throughout the Diocese to join their effort.
The medical debt relief campaign is operated through RIP Medical Debt, a New York based nonprofit started by former debt collectors. It uses donations to purchase the unpaid medical debt of low-income families for pennies on the dollar to abolish the debt. $1 purchases and cancels $100 worth of debt.
"In Jesus' very first sermon, he says that his mission is to release people from captivity," said the Very Rev. Jon Stratton, Dean of the Emery Washington Convocation and Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Louis. "Anytime folks in the biblical context talk about releasing the oppressed, it almost always includes the release of debt. Real financial debt, not just vague overly spiritualized notions of debt on account of an accumulation of sin or personal moral failures. I figure that if this was a good project for Jesus, then it's probably a good project for us."
Dean Jon said he wanted to help organize a shared ministry project in the convocation that would be high impact and yet relatively easy for parishes to engage in. Earlier this year, the Diocese sent each parish a $1,000 check (leftover funds from the 2021 budget year) to invest in community outreach. "By pooling together our $1,000 Mission Stimulus Checks, we are able to cancel over a million dollars in debt for folks experiencing poverty," the dean said. "That is high impact, and it was relatively easy for parishes to engage since we were all looking for something interesting and helpful to do with our $1,000 checks."
The convocation has already raised $13,000 to pay off medical debt, but they are hoping to do more. Their new goal is to raise $26,000, which would cancel $2.6 million in medical debt. Parishes and individuals throughout the Diocese and the community at large are invited to join this project.
To learn more about the campaign and to make a donation, visit:
The campaign runs through September 2022.
Remember, every $1 you donate cancels $100 worth of debt and changes the lives of real people. "The fact that we can cancel $100 worth of debt with every $1 raised exposes the absurdity of the predatory for-profit healthcare system," said Dean Jon. "I hope this will stir our theological imaginations and compel us to point out and dismantle other absurd systems, and not just by writing checks, but by engaging with our neighbors to build a more Beloved Community."
The Medical Debt Forgiveness Steering Committee from the Emery Washington Convocation:
- The Very Rev. Kathie Adams-Shepherd - Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis
- The Rev. Mark Kozielec - St. Mark's Episcopal Church, St. Louis
- The Rev. Dr. Emily Hillquist Davis - The Episcopal Church of the Advent and St. Thomas Deaf Episcopal Church, Crestwood
- The Rev. Rebecca Ragland - St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Carondelet / St. Louis
- The Rev. Aaron Rogers - Trinity Episcopal Church, Central West End / St. Louis
- The Rev. Dr. Valori Mulvey Sherer - Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Webster Groves
- The Very Rev. Jon Stratton - Trinity Episcopal Church, Central West End / St. Louis and Dean of Emery Washington Convocation