United Methodists expand global health campaign

Bishop Thomas Bickerton answers questions at a press conference about the church's global health plan adopted by the 2008 United Methodist General Conference during its legislative meeting in Fort Worth, Texas.
Bishop Thomas Bickerton answers questions at a press conference about the church's global health plan adopted by the 2008 United Methodist General Conference during its legislative meeting in Fort Worth, Texas.

Bishop Janice Riggle Huie

The United Methodist Church "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.

The hope is that the partnership, led by the people of The United Methodist Church and organized by the U.N. Foundation, will raise $200 million to fight malaria in Africa. Development of the partnership has received support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"This problem is greater than any one denomination or any one organization. We cannot beat malaria by ourselves," said Bishop Thomas Bickerton.

"We need to ramp up our efforts internally," Bickerton said. The United Methodist boards of Global Ministries, Church and Society and Higher Education and Ministry, along with United Methodist Communications, will work together. The capital campaign will provide financial support to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Gabrielle Fitzgerald

"The United Methodist Church has tremendous networks," said Huie. "In Côte d'Ivoire, there are 700,000 United Methodists who can be the backbone of the initiative."

Huie said the church will work on raising the funds "as long as it takes."

Malaria was eradicated in the United States in the 1950s, said Gabrielle Fitzgerald, an executive with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "All lives have equal value, yet people in Africa are bearing the burden of malaria. Something is not working right."

Two years ago, the people of The United Methodist Church joined with the U.N. Foundation "in a collection of unlikely organizations" to form Nothing But Nets, said Elizabeth McKee Gore, a foundation executive.

Nothing But Nets, an anti-malaria campaign to purchase and distribute insecticide-treated bed nets for Africa, has raised $20 million, Gore said.

"John Wesley said 'the world is my parish' and that is the hallmark of who we are," said Bickerton. "This is a historic, new day for us."

*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, e-mail: newsdesk@umcom.org.

Elizabeth McKee Gore

Phone calls can be made to the General Conference Newsroom in Fort Worth, Texas, at (817) 698-4405 until May 3. Afterward, call United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., at (615) 742-5470.

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