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Churches are forgiving medical debt

At First Presbyterian Church, in Durham, N.C., forgiving medical debt is about more than helping those in need, or even living out the grace and forgiveness of the gospel.

It’s about paying back a different kind of debt — one deeply rooted in the history of their region, and the nation.

“One of the things we’ve been talking about for years is reparations,” said Rev. Mindy Douglas, pastor and head of staff at the 575-member downtown congregation.

First Presbyterian, a congregation in the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination, is one of many across the country raising money through the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt to buy and forgive medical debts owed by people who can’t afford to pay them back. The church hopes to raise $50,000 as one of two mission components to its capital campaign — enough to forgive $5 million in medical debt. Douglas told Sojourners they should be able to forgive the $5 million by year’s end. The church is also talking to other PC (USA) churches in North Carolina about a plan to forgive up to $300 million more across the state.

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