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A challenge to organized medicine and the church.

This excerpt was taken from Granger Westberg Verbatim, edited by William M. Peterson, which was first published for the Inaugural of the Westberg Institute in 1982, and reprinted with permission by the International Parish Nurse Resource Center in 2002. His words were written decades ago, but still ring fresh and true today.

"Alongside the people whom we might characterize as 'far out,' are some others of us who see ourselves as moderates by comparison. We, too, have reacted to the medical over-emphasis on technology and surgery, along with an ever-increasing accent on medications and which we see to be counterproductive to concepts of wellness. In our view, the so-called health-care system is really only a sickness-care system, for under it people are taken care of only after they get sick, and their spiritual dimension is badly neglected.

Our response has been to see what we can do, working within the present inadequate medical establishment, to bring about valid reforms, for there is some potential for change and growth. Admittedly, working within the system is slower, but we think it is surer.

However, it is not only the American medical system that we are asking to change its ways. Many of us are firmly rooted in another establishment--the Western Christian church--which also needs reforming, especially in regard to its philosophy of health, wholeness and salvation. This seems to be a strategic moment in history for both establishments, the church and medicine, to reexamine their concepts of health--to investigate ways by which, in this time of stress and change, they can restructure their ways of promoting health in our day.

We are, in effect, inviting organized religion to engage in dialogue with our medical establishment to see how both might minister more effectively to the whole person. Fortunately, it seems that a large portion of our population does not need to be convinced that an illness is often related to one's spiritual needs. They sense that something very important is lacking in the scientific method of assessing illness and in the church's ways of healing the brokenness of our society.


Ministers have an advantage over physicians when it comes to seeing people before they get sick. Every Sunday morning, while shaking hands at the door or visiting with parishioners during the social hour, ministers can listen with sensitive ears for what people are saying, both aloud and between the lines."*

* William M. Peterson, Editor, Granger Westberg Verbatim: A Vision for Faith and Health. (St. Louis, IPNRC, 2002), pp. 48-49.

This work is available through the IPNRC at, or through

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Author:Peterson, William M.
Publication:Parish Nurse Perspectives
Article Type:Reprint
Date:Jun 22, 2011
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