By Marie Bowen, Presbyterians Pro-Life.
This is Part III in a seven-part blog series analyzing a resolution coming to the PCUSA General Assembly on the end of life. The paper titled, “Abiding Presence: Living Faithfully in End of Life Decisions,” forms the rationale of the resolution and is offered to the church as a pastoral guide to end of life conversation. Part I can be found here.
Part III Pastoral Support and the Clash of Cultures
I am not a pastor, but I found this part of the paper to be educational and helpful. I found little to criticise so will summarize with few words of response (italics).
Section B of the End of Life Pastor’s Guide explores two key questions pastors may have about their role in supporting congregation members making end of life decisions in the healthcare environment. The first question posed for pastors is: “What does it mean to live faithfully and die well, and how can I contribute to this task as a spiritual leader?” At the end of Part II in this blog series I complained that I had yet to find the distinctive voice of the Christian church—that hope of eternal life we hold even as our physical lives end. I am so glad I continued reading because I did find that hope expressed in this part of the paper. Here is my attempt at a summary.
“All persons are beloved by God, . . .and “become whole by God’s grace in spite of whatever diseases or disabilities we have.” For that reason, pastors should “advocate for equal treatment of persons without discrimination based on limitations or disabilities.”
Even death, cannot “separate us from the love of God in Christ.” That knowledge does not mean we should not make preparations to die faithfully. Pastors are encouraged to engage congregations in conversations about advance care planning. Such forethought can help patients refuse interventions “that needlessly increase our pain and suffering without providing any discernible, offsetting benefit.” Pastors can also provide assistance in facilitating conversations between patient and family members before a crisis occurs.
We live in a society that prefers to deny death and that sometimes makes conversation about it uncomfortable. Pastors can help by listening when patients may feel isolated but have need to “review their lives” and “measure their lives.”