May 31, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Ronny Perry
A health fair was held recently at Methodist Hospital in Memphis
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
the importance of health—in body, mind and spirit—will be a focus of
several United Methodist agencies during the next few years.
Methodist Communications will help coordinate that focus by providing a
communications strategy, which will include the creation of a Web site
and finding ways to link people with volunteer opportunities and models
of health-related programs, according to the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief
Denominational representatives met in early May in Washington to start shaping this focus on health and wholeness.
of the things we're looking at is how agencies can collaborate around
the whole issue of health and wholeness and deal with the full range of
subject matter that it involves," Hollon explained.
addition to taking care of one's self and cultivating a discipline of
body, mind and spirit, the focus will promote the recognition "that
we're all better when we're in a healthy relationship with God and with
other people," he said.
a broader level, the church must be an advocate for quality health
care, the delivery of that care "and how it is done in a way that makes
it available to everyone," Hollon added.
United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits adopted "health
as wholeness in mission" when it realized that clergy were making a
higher than usual number of health and disability-related insurance
claims, according to Barbara Boigegrain, the agency's chief executive.
key determination was that health "is a bigger issue than an absence of
symptoms," she noted. Both clergy and lay workers must be healthy to do
God's work, and the church needs to develop spiritual disciplines to
assist them "as opposed to wearing them down," she said.
acknowledged that health is a highly personal issue, and she believes
that improvements for the denomination will occur on a regional
conference-by-conference basis. "Our approach has been to raise
awareness and provide information," she said.
pension board has convened several different task forces to look at
aspects of health and wholeness. The Interagency Working Group on Health
and Wholeness, according to Boigegrain, "has been looking at models
that are working," and also will consider curriculum development and the
sharing of information among church members.
agency is starting to develop streams of research—working with United
Methodist-related Duke University and other organizations—that focus on
which activities in ministry create higher stress levels. "The research
will tell us a lot," she predicted.
denomination's Board of Discipleship also has agreed to do research on
attitudes toward health and on how to discuss health in more compelling
ways, according to Hollon.
interagency task force is "looking for ways to reframe the issue of
health and wholeness that create some energy and make it more compelling
than just having another health fair," he explained.
Board of Church and Society has been involved in advocacy efforts
related to health care and adopted a resolution at its spring meeting to
make health care a priority, according to James Winkler, chief
that meeting, Dr. Henry Simmons, executive director of the National
Coalition for Health Care, addressed Church and Society directors about
the health care crisis in the United States. The board is a member of
|A UMNS photo by Ronny Perry
People participate in a health fair at Methodist Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
served as chairman for a "congressional hearing" at Riverside Church in
New York, where Congressman John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and Congressmen
Charles Rangel and Jerrold Nadler of New York, all Democrats, heard the
testimony of 40 citizens, including health professionals. The hearing
was organized by the Campaign for a National Health Plan Now!, which
Church and Society supports as a member.
health care crisis is huge for our local churches, annual conferences
and general agencies," Winkler said. "We have to help United Methodists
lead healthy lives and confront a corrupt and broken health care
an international level, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries
will take the lead in possible health initiatives, such as a campaign
to prevent malaria. The Rev. R. Randy Day, the board's chief executive,
advocated such a campaign during his agency's spring meeting.
is much on my mind as a preventable disease that is all too often
fatal," he told directors. The disease kills one African child every 30
seconds and a total of 2 million people a year, he noted.
insecticide-treated mosquito nets can reduce the incidence of malaria
by 50 percent in areas of high transmission, fewer than 5 percent of
African children sleep under a mosquito net, Day reported. By trying
pilot programs involving mosquito nets in several locations, United
Methodists could "save the lives of many children," he said.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.