Basketball scores big win in anti-malaria campaign
Bishop Thomas Bickerton holds an autographed
basketball that was auctioned off during the 2008 United Methodist
General Conference, raising almost $430,000 to fight malaria through the
Nothing But Nets campaign. UMNS photos by Mike DuBose.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
May 19, 2008 | FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS)
Delegates to the top legislative body of The United Methodist Church
saved the lives of more than 50,000 children while deciding church
policy for the next four years.
It all began when Bishop Thomas Bickerton challenged the 992 delegates
to General Conference to give up their lunch money on April 25, World
Malaria Day, and donate $10 to the Nothing But Nets anti-malaria
That challenge netted $15,000 and launched a bidding war for a
basketball signed by United Methodist bishops. The auction ended in an
additional offering of $429,270. At $10 a net, close to 50,000 families
will be covered by insecticide-treated sleeping nets in Africa as a
result of the donations.
Bickerton prepares to present the basketball to Bishop Bruce Ough, whose West Ohio Area scored the winning.
"Who knew one basketball could save so many lives!" declared Elizabeth
McKee Gore of the United Nations Foundation, adding that the foundation
was "overwhelmed" by the delegates' support of Nothing But Nets.
Along with the foundation, The United Methodist Church is a founding
partner of Nothing But Nets, which fights malaria by purchasing and
distributing nets to Africa. A donation of $10 covers the cost of
delivering one net and teaching a family how to protect themselves from
Nothing But Nets is part of the church’s Global Health Initiative to
fight diseases of poverty and promote congregational health and
"Who would have thought that a spontaneous plea for sensitivity in
response to World Malaria Day would result in a one-time offering of
nearly $15,000 and an auction that has raised nearly $450,000 in
pledges!" said Bickerton, president of United Methodist Communications
and spokesperson for Nothing But Nets.
"I think we can and should learn some valuable lessons from the whole
campaign. It is a spontaneous, grassroots response to a stated need to
make the world a better place."
The West Ohio Annual (regional) Conference made the slam-dunk bid of
$80,000 to score the basketball. Other bidding conferences were
encouraged to pay the amount of their bids as well, even if they were
"Dear friends, don't you love being part of a church that is becoming a
global movement for the making of disciples for the transformation of
the world?" asked Bishop Bruce R. Ough of West Ohio, as he took the pass
from Bickerton and dribbled the autographed ball to the podium.
Ough dribbles to the podium.
"I often get asked in West Ohio what does it mean to be part of a church
that is a movement rather than institution. My standard response is a
movement is driven and empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit to
reflect the justice and compassion we just sung about. And you have been
a part of the movement at this General Conference. We did not vote to
do this, did you notice that?"
The bidding among annual conferences began at $1,000, but the action
heated up when the Holston Conference offered $32,000 and Central Texas
matched that bid. Western Pennsylvania upped the ante to $40,000, and
Greater New Jersey came in at $75,000 before West Ohio's offer of
"Do I hear a bid of $80,001?" asked Bickerton, before announcing the winning bid.
West Ohio's offering was matched by William H. Gates Sr., co-chair of
the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who had addressed the
conference on May 1 and pledged to match the top bid.
Gates praised The United Methodist Church for its work to wipe out
malaria. "We are proud to be your partner in this campaign to end the
world’s worst killer of children. We believe the campaign cannot succeed
without you," Gates said.
The United Methodist Church has "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 as General
Conference approved the Global Health Initiative on May 1.
Agencies and boards of the church will join with the U.N. Foundation and
other organizations to combat the diseases of poverty: HIV/AIDS,
malaria and tuberculosis.
To help launch its capital campaign, the church will use a $5 million
grant from the U.N. Foundation with support from the Gates Foundation.
The action will mean a four-month planning phase for the Global Health
Initiative involving the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries,
Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Board of Church and Society and
United Methodist Communications, said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top
executive of United Methodist Communications.
This collaboration of resources "allows us to be more effective," Hollon said.
Hollon said fighting malaria and other diseases of poverty requires a
"seismic shift … that we move toward each other in partnership. What I
sense is that there is a great yearning. I believe we are at the dawn of
a new day."
Bickerton said the church's involvement in addressing global health with secular partners is critical.
"Our unprecedented partnership with the secular world only continues to
grow. But as it grows, we find out more and more that our partners are
looking for the church to be the glue that will give purpose and meaning
to this important endeavor to bring life to a dying world.
"We all need to continue to pray and work for the fulfillment of the
goal to make malaria a word we only use when we talk about history."
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.