Four prominent Austin ministers representing a broad religious spectrum will grapple with the religious ethics of controversial end-of-life decisions in a special forum at 2 p.m., Sunday, October 21 at University Christian Church at 2007 University Ave.
"We want our forums to embrace real-life issues" said Senior Minister Charles Kutz-Marks, "and at the time we began considering our next topic, three stories were getting prominent coverage in our local newspapers and newscasts. One was the tragic drama of the baby Emilio here in Austin. A second concerned a resurrected lawsuit in the aftermath of the Terri Schiavo controversy in Florida – a true 'prime-of-life' catastrophe. And finally, the release of Dr. Jack Kevorkian dredged up memories of his unorthodox proposals for the terminally ill. Combining this with our own experiences with elderly relatives, we had little trouble selecting a topic that offers such a rich field of ethical dilemmas."
"As we began consulting with professionals who are on the front lines serving the terminally ill," Dr. Kutz-Marks continued, "we noticed that a few issues are simply not being addressed in a public way. We hope to pull some of these out for examination. To give one example, our committee observed that no one appears to be asking about the moral implications of dedicating extravagant resources to a few selected individuals while so many children, and our population in general, appear to face a rationed health care environment."
The forum is open to the public without charge. Titled "When is Enough Enough? Faith Perspectives on End-of-Life Health Care Decisions" the dialogue will feature four popular leaders of local congregations:
- The Very Rev. Charles L. (Larry) Covington, Pastor of St. Louis Catholic Church in Austin
In 2003, Father Larry Covington was accepted into the College of Pastoral Leaders, a program at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and nominated as a fellow of the College of Preachers in Washington, D.C. (the only Catholic ever to be offered this fellowship). Growth, ministries and community outreach have distinguished his parish as being one of the top 300 in the nation.
- Rabbi Alan Freedman, Rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom in Austin
Rabbi Freedman was an attorney and businessman for nearly twenty years. He currently serves on the Ethics Committee at St. David's Hospital, and on the Austin Area Interreligious Ministries Board of Directors.
- The Rev. Dr. Davidson Loehr, Senior Minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin
Dr. Loehr has been a fellow in the Jesus Seminar since 1991. He has served on a hospital ethics committee in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and is the author of America, Fascism and God, Chelsea Press, 2005. He was winner of the 2005 Austin Chronicle Award for Best Minister/Spiritual Leader.
- The Rev. Dr. Roger Paynter, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Austin
Dr. Paynter is the 2007 recipient of the Durstan McDonald Award for Teaching Excellence at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, where he has served as an Adjunct Professor of Pastoral Ministry. He has been President of the Baptist Advisory board at Brite Divinity School at TCU, and is on the Board of Directors of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School.
The forum will include questions from the moderator as well as from the audience, and it will be followed by a reception.
Dr. Kutz-Marks noted that University Christian Church, located just south of the University of Texas campus and across the street from Littlefield Fountain, has a history of engaging the University community in explorations of issues of present concern. The current forum is one of a series, he said, that seeks to share ethical perspectives and increase understanding of today's significant issues. One goal of the forums is to promote regard for the opinions of others through balanced respectful dialogue. Information about the forum and many aspects of the topic itself can be found at www.uccforums.org.