May 11, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Linda Bales
The Rev. Donald Messer (second from right) presents a $10,000 check to members of the Global AIDS Fund Committee.
By Mark Schoeff Jr.*
(UMNS)—During its inaugural meeting, the United Methodist Church Global
AIDS Fund Committee set aside $50,000 to fund programs to prevent the
transmission of the disease from mothers to infants during birth.
money, allocated from an existing United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries account, will be made available to United Methodist hospitals
in eight countries. Hospitals in two of those countries—Zimbabwe and
India—are ready to implement the program now. Others will follow
eventually in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Mozambique, Brazil and the
In Zimbabwe, existing programs piloted by the
United Methodist Committee on Relief will be used as templates for new
efforts there and in other countries.
funds can be used to purchase Nevirapine, a drug that is administered
once to the mother at the onset of labor and once to the baby after
birth. The treatment significantly reduces the risk that the newborn
will contract the AIDS virus, according to Linda Bales, staff executive
with the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.
by the 2004 General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative
body, the committee is charged with raising and distributing $8 million
over the next four years. Set up as the Global HIV/AIDS Program Advance
Special #982345, the fund has generated $120,000 since March 1 and has
$32,000 on hand. None of the money will come from apportionments.
11-member committee had its first meeting May 6-7 in Washington. Led by
Bishop Fritz Mutti, who lost two sons to AIDS, the interagency group
includes three at-large members and representatives from the Board of
Church and Society; the Board of Global Ministries and two of its units,
UMCOR and the Women’s Division; the Division on Ministries with Young
People at the United Methodist Board of Discipleship; the Commission on
Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns; and the Council of Bishops.
will support education, prevention, care, and treatment programs for
people living with HIV/AIDS around the world. Projects are likely to
focus on women and children, hospitals and food security.
40 million people, 70 percent of them in sub-Sahara Africa, have
HIV/AIDS, according UNAIDS and the World Health Organization. About
600,000 children are infected each year. The pandemic has orphaned 14
million African children.
United Methodist annual (regional) conference will be asked to
establish an HIV/AIDS task force and raise $1 per member over four
years, with 25 percent of the money remaining in the local conference
and 75 percent going to the global committee.
mountain is very large but not impossible to climb,” said the Rev.
Donald Messer, the Warren Professor of Practical Theology at Iliff
School of Theology in Denver. “It’s a ways to go, but we can do it.”
author of Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence: Christian Churches and
the Global AIDS Crisis, Messer presented a $10,000 check from the Rocky
Mountain Annual Conference at the meeting.
he is optimistic about raising the $8 million and enthusiastic about
the committee, Messer expressed frustration that it was meeting for the
first time nearly a year after General Conference.
congregation responding to the HIV/AIDS crisis is St. Luke’s United
Methodist Church in Indianapolis. Last year, it raised $100,000 to
support an HIV/AIDS clinic in Eldoret, Kenya, run jointly by the Indiana
University School of Medicine and United Methodist-related Africa
University in Zimbabwe.
Rev. Kent Millard, senior minister at St. Luke’s, and associate
minister Stanley Abell became involved in the project after meeting rock
star Bono at a December 2002 HIV/AIDS awareness concert in
Indianapolis, where Millard gave the invocation. The Eldoret effort also
has received backing from Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a member of St. Luke’s.
an example of what one church can do against this global pandemic,”
said Millard, who is a member of the AIDS committee and will head up the
large church campaign. “We have the opportunity to raise people’s
consciousness. ... Christ calls us to do this.”
churches also will be targeted because a modest amount of money can
provide a significant amount of care. The committee has to “help them
think about something like this,” said Ida Powell of Lynchburg, Va., a
director of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and
Interreligious Concerns. “We’ve moved to the Book of James—faith plus
important destination for church dollars is education programs. United
Methodists can help promote treatment by reducing the stigma surrounding
HIV/AIDS in developing countries. The committee said its goal is to
“equip Christian workers with the necessary knowledge, skills and
attitude to serve their churches and societies more effectively.”
any progress can be made, the appropriate HIV/AIDS infrastructure must
be in place. “We have to have good programs on the ground on the other
side,” said Cherian Thomas, a committee member and a staff executive
with the Board of Global Ministries. “We have to build and strengthen
systems. It is a long haul.”
addition to global outreach, the committee will focus on HIV/AIDS at
home. Mutti, bishop in residence at Saint Paul School of Theology in
Kansas City, reflected on the loss of his two sons to the disease about
15 years ago.
loss never goes away,” said the bishop, who wrote about it in his book,
Dancing In A Wheelchair. “Many other people are going on the same
journey with us. It’s amazing how many families in small towns across
the country are dealing with this.”
can support the AIDS response by designating checks for UMCOR Advance
#982345, “Global AIDS Fund,” and sending them to P.O. Box 9068, New
York, NY 10087-9068.
*Schoeff is a freelance writer in the Washington D.C. area.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.