RETHINK CHURCH continues as a recurring theme for United Methodists in 2011 as we think in new ways about the future of the church, its outreach and its goal to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

During 2011, Together will be emphasizing RETHINK CHURCH as we affect the greater Indiana culture of which we are participants as citizens and residents. I begin January with the theme of Rethinking Statehouse advocacy.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement more than 200 years ago, was adamant about Methodist effects on British society for the common good of all people, especially those who were poor and disadvantaged. He was noted for his campaigns to eliminate debtor prisons, to establish Sunday schools to teach not only the Bible but also reading to street children, and most notable, to abolish slavery.

If Wesley were alive and a Hoosier, he would probably spend a portion of his time at the Indiana Statehouse, advocating for the common good of the state. In that tradition, United Methodists have collaborated with other faith and health advocates in an active coalition this year to pass legislation for a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law to protect all the workers of Indiana from the deadly effects of tobacco smoke in workplaces. For most of this past decade, Hoosier United Methodists, pastors, parish nurses and some United Methodist legislators have actively supported such a comprehensive law, that has been defeated time and time again, refusing to settle for a lesser law. It’s time for Indiana to join 27 other states in a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law for better public health. Where comprehensive bans have been enacted, the number of heart failures have been reduced, to mention just one of many health benefits.

Smoke-free Indiana

This year Representative Charlie Brown of Gary has introduced legislation as House Bill 1018 – Smoking Ban in Public Places. It was first heard by the House Public Health Committee on Jan. 12. The bill would ban smoking in all public places, including bars, restaurants and casinos.

This year more than 9,700 Hoosiers will die from tobacco use and thousands more will suffer from illness and health problems caused by smoking and secondhand smoke. Each year, more than 9,900 Hoosier children become addicted to tobacco, of whom a third will die prematurely because of this addiction. Smoking-caused health problems cost Indiana more than $2 billion per year, including more than $487 million paid for by the state Medicaid program. A smoke-free Indiana would greatly increase the public health of Hoosiers and lower the death rate from the use of tobacco.

Celebrate ITPC

This year also marks the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Agency of state government. This agency is funded entirely from the $125-million-a-year settlement money from the tobacco industry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that to lower the use of tobacco in Indiana, ITPC needs to be funded more than $78 million a year. CDC&P has established that fully funding state tobacco prevention programs, increasing taxes on tobacco, and prohibiting smoking in workplaces, including restaurants and bars, substantially decreases smoking and other tobacco use, particularly among children, thereby reducing tobacco-caused harms and costs.

As part of the Hoosier Faith & Health Coalition, Church Women United and United Methodists join with other faith and health groups in support of ITPC and encourage the Indiana State General Assembly to fully fund this agency. In light of the tenth anniversary, here is an overview of some of the successes:

  • Smoking rates for high school youth have dropped by 42 percent, resulting in 49,000 fewer youth smokers.
  • Adult smoking rates have decreased from 27 percent to 23 percent. This historic low rate means there are 208,000 fewer smokers in Indiana.
  • Per capita cigarette consumption in Indiana has declined by 40 percent, meaning those who smoke are smoking less.
  • The ongoing declines in smoking will continue to improve the public health in Indiana. The current reductions have yielded the following health care costs saving:
  • Future health costs from youth and adult smoking: $3.1 billion.
  • Future Medicaid from youth and adult smoking: $512.4 million.

Faith and health leaders from across the state invite United Methodists and other faith groups to the Celebrate TEN Luncheon from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Monday, January 24, at Christ Church Cathedral on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. Space is limited.

Come learn ten reasons why ITPC has been a success and why ITPC needs to be maintained by the State of Indiana. Come hear testimonials from people who have worked with or benefited from the life saving work of ITPC. Come hear how you can influence the future of ITPC by contacting your state senator and representative to assure the continuance of this important agency for improving the health of Hoosiers.

To reserve your place for this complimentary Celebrate TEN Luncheon, contact the Hoosier Faith and Health Coalition by calling 317-472-1055 or e-mail Aida at by January 20. Your help is needed for this new decade of tobacco prevention and cessation across Indiana.

Thank you for your support in Rethinking Church on one of many social issues before our state.

Daniel R. Gangler