For many congregations, wiping out medical debt has become a popular calling

by | Mar 1, 2023 | Religion

DURHAM, N.C. (RNS) — When members of First Presbyterian Church decided to launch a capital campaign to expand and renovate their imposing Gothic Revival edifice, they also wanted to take on a service project to help the poor.The congregation settled on raising $50,000 to eliminate medical debt for people living below the poverty line.
Helping ease medical debt, especially for people of color, is an increasingly popular social justice project among liberal Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations. Over the past few years some 800 U.S. congregations have partnered with RIP Medical Debt to do so.
The 9-year-old nonprofit uses donations to buy large bundled portfolios of medical debt from collection agencies and other third parties at a steep discount. It then turns around and notifies people their debts have been erased.
“For churches seeking to make a difference for those suffering under the weight of debt, this is an instrument we can use to try to take it off their shoulders so everyone can flourish,” said the Rev. Mindy Douglas, pastor of First Presbyterian. Last year, the church was able to raise almost $26,000 and pay off $5 million in medical debt in Durham and surrounding counties. This spring, the church will kick off the second leg of its campaign with the goal of raising at least …

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