An Advent Study for HIV/AIDS

The Season for Change

Justice agency board approves $100,000 for Imagine No Malaria

CHEVY CHASE, Md. — The governing body of the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) voted unanimously at its fall meeting to contribute $100,000 to the denomination’s Imagine No Malaria (INM) campaign.

Bishop Robert Hoshibata, president of GBCS’s Board of Directors, said he was extremely pleased at the vote to support the Imagine No Malaria Initiative.

“Our board has been deeply involved in INM primarily through our work of advocacy,” the bishop said. “We have now chosen to extend and broaden our support through our participation in the work of the annual conference field coordinators for the initiative.”

Bishop Hoshibata said the decision to commit $100,000 to support the Imagine No Malaria Initiative extends GBCS’s ministry of compassionate justice. “It demonstrates our desire to assist this historic initiative to its exciting and successful conclusion," he emphasized.

Stamp out killer diseases of poverty

Imagine No Malaria targets the elimination of death and suffering from malaria. It supports the denomination’s goal of “stamping out globally the killer diseases of poverty.”

The 2008 United Methodist General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-setting body, set the goal of raising $75 million to support this global fight. World health partners, including The United Methodist Church, have joined hands and decided that people ought not to die because of the geography of their birth; people ought not to die because of poverty; people ought not to die from a preventable, treatable and beatable disease.

The denomination’s reach is expanded in this fight through partnerships with allies such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations Foundation, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria, Nothing But Nets, the National Basketball Assn. and international health ministries.

Connectional initiative

The General Board of Church & Society has been intimately involved in the Connectional initiative.

  • Organizing for fundraising and education is accomplished through leadership of United Methodist Communications.
  • Program strategy and implementation is accomplished through leadership of the General Board of Global Ministries.
  • Advocacy is accomplished through the leadership of the General Board of Church & Society.

The Rev. Clayton Childers, GBCS director of Conference Relations, is a seconded staff person to Imagine No Malaria.

“Clayton’s work has provided tremendous benefit to both Imagine No Malaria and GBCS through increased United Methodist participation in the advocacy work of the agency,” pointed out Bishop Thomas Bickerton, chairperson of the United Methodist Global Health Initiative Imagine No Malaria Campaign. “The board’s leadership staff has been instrumental in developing the enlarged partnership with the United Nations Foundation, Bread for the World and others.”

Advocacy event

An example of increased participation facilitated by GBCS is the Imagine No Malaria advocacy event on Capitol Hill last December.

  • 107 participants from 40 annual conferences in 30 states joined GBCS leadership to advocate for continued financial support for global aid addressing health and poverty.
  • The teams combined to visit 119 offices of U.S. senators and representatives.
  • Five participants were from the African countries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Nigeria.
  • Fifteen Conference Lay Leaders participated.
  • INM field coordinators led participants from five of the conferences.
  • Five annual conference communications directors participated. Their involvement resulted in a significant increase in messaging for the work of GBCS and Imagine No Malaria.

“These numbers reflect just one of the four lobbying events that GBCS has sponsored to garner support for the Global Health portion of the federal budget,” said Bickerton.

Living out calling

United Methodists are living out their calling to be followers of Christ, according to Bickerton, to heal the sick and to bring the good news to transform and be transformed.

“Malaria is a disease of the past in the developed world and can be eliminated in the developing world,” Bickerton said. “The unanimous action of General Conference 2008 mandated our church’s involvement, and because of this step forward, Imagine No Malaria is changing our world and changing our church.”

Three years ago, the World Health Organization reported that every 30 seconds a child was dying from malaria. In just the past three years, deaths from malaria have been cut in half to a reported one every 60 seconds.

The United Methodist Church, through interagency collaboration, has established 13 health boards that serve 16 African countries. These trained, in-country boards develop strategy and goals with clear measurements, effective evaluation and reporting mechanisms for accountability. The skill sets acquired are transferable in addressing other health issues, according to Bickerton.

“Because our work has already begun, mortality rates are falling,” Bickerton said, “but not enough.”

Grassroots mobilization key

The key to INM’s fundraising success is mobilization of people at the grassroots in annual conferences. GBCS’s contribution will go towards launching 10 new conference campaigns supported by a field coordinator in 2013-2014, Bickerton explained.

To date, the success of the 30 annual conferences engaged in formal Imagine No Malaria campaigns correlates to the deployment of a conference-selected field coordinator, trained and supported by INM staff. The role of the field coordinator is to organize staff and volunteers, and to resource conference leadership and members in reaching their committed/pledged goal of a minimum of $1 million.

More than $53 million in cash and pledges have been raised for Imagine No Malaria. “This is the first time in the life of our church that this amount of money has been raised in a non-disaster effort,” Bickerton emphasized.

The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. Prime responsibility of the board is to seek implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns of the General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-making body. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City.