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Nov 18, 2011 | The Rev. Paul Holley

Overlooked or Overseen? Health facilities in the life of the church

Overlooked or Overseen? Health facilities in the life of the church

Representatives of faith-based hospitals met in Jerusalem this week to address the place of health facilities in the mission of the church. The Rev. Paul Holley, coordinator of the Anglican Health Network, and Gail Bray, PhD, executive director of St. Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities, Houston, TX, attended on behalf of the Anglican Communion.

The conference addressed the challenge of leadership. Managers expressed concern that bishops and other church leaders have in certain instances abdicated their responsibilities for integrating health care with mission, leaving hospitals isolated from their constituent congregations. At the other end of the scale, the church can rely too much on these institutions for additional revenue and employment opportunities for church members.

With growing awareness of the integration of faith and health, participants in the conference expressed their wish to see a more balanced integration of their work in the life of the church. This is an area of significant opportunity for the church both in terms of service to the sick and in order to integrate body, mind and spirit within the medical establishment.

The conference took place at the Lutheran Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives. Its CEO, Dr. Tawfiq Nasser, explained how he negotiates the sensitive political, cultural and religious context of the Israel/Palestine environment. Participants noted how health care can provide a common platform in which interfaith action can be performed to the benefit of all. The Lutheran notion of diakonia is employed to emphasise service to the community.

Amongst the participants were representatives from the Lutheran Church in Norway and Germany, the United Methodist Church in the United States, the Salvation Army in London and Zambia, the Adventist health system and other independent Christian hospitals in India, Mozambique and Taiwan.

The conference demonstrated there are now opportunities for learning from church health ministries across the traditions. This is part of an emerging trend in faith-based health care that is reflected in the vibrant growth of the Anglican Health Network since its launch two years ago.

Press release from the Anglican Health Network 17 November 2011, Jerusalem
Revd Paul Holley, Coordinator, Anglican Health Network