Thursday, March 8, 2012

Full time coordinator of the network

On 1st July I started my new role as full time coordinator of the network. 16 years in parish ministry has given me a perspective of the Church’s mission from the frontline. I bring that experience with me to help deepen the ministry of health and healing within the wider communion.

As I do, I am encouraged by signs both within the Church and beyond it to see a wave of momentum in this area. At the interface between faith and health Christian individuals and institutions are pioneering new approaches to bring holistic care. Others are responding to overwhelming need to bring health care to underserved communities. Alliances are forming, conferences called, studies undertaken. Far from retreating from its traditional role as health service provider, the Church in its many guises is tentatively taking steps forward to renew this role.

At the same time there exists a crisis of confidence in the willingness of wealthy nations to subsidise the health care services of the poorer ones. The most visible sign of this emerges from global donors for HIV/AIDS, Malaria and TB. Ambitions are being questioned. Funding is beginning to ‘flatline’ in some places. It may even be reduced in due course. In the past decade there was a good deal of expectation that funding of up to $20billion per year could yield significant gains to defeat the big diseases and build health systems. No one knows quite how these ambitions might need to be re-evaluated as finance comes under greater pressure.

Churches engaged with donors and strategists through this past decade and made their case for publicly funded support. Some signs of encouragement emerged, with partnerships and funding regimes agreed. This has brought a good deal more confidence amongst Church health providers that they play a significant role within health systems, and that their work can add great value to future national health plans. However, they have now to face a period of uncertainty in which faith-based health care providers may have to adapt their plans.

What we are learning as the Church is that faith and health are intimately tied together, and that the example of our forebears and of Jesus himself leads us to recommit ourselves to bringing greater health and wholeness. Whilst there is still suspicion and resistance, nevertheless our role as health service providers is gaining greater significance in the mind of the health community. We do not know how these next steps will play out in the context of the financial crisis, so we will need to be flexible.

I am about to visit Dr. Bennet Abraham of the Church of South India. He is our pioneer in testing the new health microinsurance model from his 650 bed teaching hospital in Kerala. As we learn from him and so many other innovators around the Anglican Communion, I hope this network can begin to make sense of the prevailing trends around us. In the process of mutual learning, we will need to see our work evolve so that it can release fresh hope and health from the communities we serve.


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