Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The UMC and global health work

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Assistant Professor of Religion and Pieper Chair of Servant Leadership at Ripon College.

I'd like to pass along two recent news stories about global health partnerships that The United Methodist Church supports.  The first is a report by Donald E. Messer on the recent International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.  Messer is executive director of the Center for the Church and Global AIDS and attended the conference. The second is a story about recent pledges to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.  The United Methodist Church was one of a number of partners pledging financial support of the fund.  Both of these stories demonstrate the UMC's important work on "improving health globally," one of the denomination's Four Areas of Focus for ministry.

These stories are not only important because they fit with this ministry focus.  They are also important for two things they teach us about the nature of ministry partnerships that seek to tackle global issues.  First, they teach us that such work really does involve international ministry partnerships.  It might be possible to read the story about the financial pledges to the Global Fund and think it was just a story about Western generosity to solve problems "over there."  But that's not how the fight to end AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria works.  It's not just a process of Westerners giving money.  It's a process of Westerners, Southerners, Easterners, people from all around the globe coming together and pooling their resources, knowledge, and expertise to create comprehensive, systemic solutions to these global health problems.  The necessary cooperation of and contribution by partners in many countries is especially well highlighted in the story about the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.  The congress was not a bunch of Westerners out to fix someone else's problems for them.  It was a collaborative approach by people from many backgrounds to fix a common problem.

Second, these stories teach us that, as important as international ministry partnerships within the UMC are, international ministry partnerships that reach beyond the UMC are important too.  Neither the Global Fund nor the International Congress are instances of United Methodists going it alone.  Instead, they are both stories about United Methodists working with others - other Christians, people from governments, business, and other secular backgrounds, and even people from other religions - to achieve shared goals.  Moreover, rather than weaken the Christian witness in The United Methodist Church's anti-disease efforts, these sorts of collaborations strengthen that Christian witness.  They make the church's efforts more effective and therefore a better witness, and they also make the church's efforts known to those outside of the church and therefore a wider witness.

When we read such stories of the church's work on global health or other global issues, we should do more than just pause to feel good about our generosity or stop to wonder why we're involved in "secular" efforts.  Instead, we should reflect on how carrying out God's mission in the world involves calling forth the gifts that God has given to all of God's people.

1 comment:

  1. To follow up on this story, the World Health Organization has just released encouraging news about the fight against malaria in their yearly report: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2013/world-malaria-report-20131211/en/index.html