General Conference 2008: UMC Expands Global Health Campaign

May 04, 2008

(UMNS) The UMC "ramped up" its commitment to fight malaria – by agreeing to enter into a capital campaign to raise $75 million to $100 million for global health.


"This is a milestone in the church's long history of caring for the poor and the whole person," said Bishop Janice Riggle Huie on May 1, in announcing the 2008 General Conference's approval of the Global Health Initiative. Agencies and boards of the church will join with the United Nations Foundation and other organizations to combat the diseases of poverty: HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.


The initiative represents an expanded global partnership, Huie said. Two years ago, the UMC joined with the U.N. Foundation to form Nothing But Nets, an anti-malaria campaign to purchase and distribute insecticide-treated bed nets in Africa. That campaign has raised $20 million to date, said Elizabeth McKee Gore, a foundation executive. The hope is that the expanded partnership, led by the UMC and organized by the U.N. Foundation, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will raise $200 million to fight malaria in Africa.


The capital campaign will provide financial support to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Huie said the church will work on raising the funds "as long as it takes."


Short Takes

• The 700,000-member Côte d'Ivoire church was formally received as a UM annual conference – after four years of legal questions regarding the implications of such action. Noting that UM churches in Africa are the fastest-growing components of the denomination, delegates approved a request for $2 million for UM theological schools on that continent. The $2 million request for African theological schools would help seminaries across the continent train additional pastors for the growing church.


• The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, dean of Cannon Chapel and religious life at Emory University, was elected president of the Judicial Council May 1 – becoming the first woman to hold that office. She was elected in 1992 to her first eight-year term on the council and was elected to a second term in 2004. Jon R. Gray, a Kansas City attorney, will serve as vice president, and the Rev. Belton Joyner, an interim district superintendent in the North Carolina Conference, will be secretary.


• General Conference elected four people to the University Senate, which determines the relationship of academic and theological institutions to the denomination. Elected to a four-year term were: Maxine Clark Beach, vice president and dean of Drew Theological School, Madison, N.J.; David L. Beckley, president of Rust College, Holly Springs, Miss.; Charlene Black, retired university president and academic vice president at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Ga.; and the Rev. Maxie Dunnam, former president of Asbury Seminary, Wilmore, Ky.


• All petitions advocating divestment as a peacemaking strategy in Israeli-Palestinian conflicts were rejected May 1 and 2 by General Conference delegates, as they voted on special consent calendars. April 29 General Conference did adopt a petition on the Middle East conflict submitted by the Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, calling for the church to continue "to advocate for a peaceful settlement of the conflict … through negotiation and diplomacy rather than through methods of violence and coercion."


• Four bishops and a top agency executive spoke passionately about the human cost of war April 29, calling for an end to the war in Iraq during a prayer service for the Eyes Wide Open exhibit in General Worth Park, across from the Fort Worth Convention Center where General Conference was held. The Council of Bishops calls UMs to be peacemakers, said Bishop John Schol of the Washington, D.C., Area. "We believe war is incompatible with Christian teaching and the war in Iraq is an unjust war. We continue to call on the President and Congress of the United States and the leaders of all the nations in the Coalition Forces to begin immediately a safe and full withdrawal of all military personnel from Iraq."