By Jessica Brodie
A passion for global health took a United Methodist pastor from South Carolina to the nation’s capitol recently, where she joined other faith leaders as they spoke to congressional representatives about funding concerns.
The Rev. Beverly CroweTipton, pastor of Zion United Methodist Church, Anderson, spent Feb. 12-13 in Washington, D.C., with author and speaker Brian McLaren, Gus Reyes with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and Dr. Robert Record, of Christ Health in Birmingham, each of them deep advocates for health.
The four, along with others, met with six to nine representatives apiece to ask them to continue to fund The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria at its current level or higher.
The Global Fund invests $4 billion each year to support programs to end AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics. The United Methodist Church has been a partner with the Global Fund since 2010 through the UMC’s Imagine No Malaria campaign.
“They’ve had such wonderful success—millions of lives saved since 2002,” CroweTipton said.
This is a pivotal year for the Global Fund. Funding was sustained in the 2019 budget, but its replenishment budget is set every three years, so CroweTipton and the others asked representatives to set the Global Fund budget at $1.56 billion to fight each of the pandemics—HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria—so they will no longer be at epidemic levels.
But President Donald Trump has proposed cutting global aid budgets, a cut CroweTipton and other faith leaders do not support. Trump’s budget for 2020, announced March 11, also proposes a cut to the Global Fund.
Still, CroweTipton said the meetings went well.
“It was a wonderful experience. I came away so very grateful that it is possible for us to have these kinds of conversations,” she said. “All of the offices were prepared for us, they knew we were coming, knew our names. They asked appropriate and inquisitive questions and gave us their attention.”
A broad definition of ‘neighbor’
The South Carolina pastor began developing a passion for health missions when she was very young. She grew up in a church that emphasized international missions, so by fourth grade she was telling her teachers she wanted to be a missionary one day.
“Our faith hinges on the two commandments: love God and love our neighbor,” CroweTipton said. “My definition of neighbor is broad, as I think Jesus’ definition was broad as well.”
She was eager to help when she learned about the UMC’s Imagine No Malaria campaign, and that help transitioned to helping the Global Fund because of its access and ability to reach people.
“In 2015, we (at the UMC) gave $9.6 million to the Global Fund specifically for their malaria work used in nine different countries,” she said. “In fact, we wrote the largest check from a faith-based group.”
One of the people helping to advocate for global health with CroweTipton is Dr. Jenny Dyer, who has been working for years on health issues with faith leaders through The 2030 Collaborative.
Dyer said the goal is so much more than funding.
“It’s using the practice of advocacy as well to make sure this very integral program to end malaria is fully funded,” Dyer said.
Global health is “just another example of the work we’re called as Christians to do in serving the poor.”
CroweTipton agreed. “John Wesley himself said there is no religion that is not social, no holiness that is not social,” CroweTipton said. “It is our call to live out our faith in the world working to ensure welfare of all God’s children so that there is peace and justice for all of us.”
CroweTipton and Dyer encourage people of faith to reach out to their representatives and encourage them to provide more funding than the president’s budget proposes.
“People can call and they can write, and let their representatives know they are supportive of these global health initiatives,” CroweTipton said. “My experience is they do listen and they do take into account the information that comes into their offices from the people who are concerned enough to reach out.”