Health and healing 'are a mission imperative'
A major conference on the relationship between Faith, Health and Healing was held in Birmingham, England, at the end of April under the auspices of the Anglican Health Network. Provinces were invited to send representatives to the conference and to an AHN provincial representatives' meeting immediately following.
Those who gathered for the provincial representatives' meeting reflected on the Faith, Health and Healing conference and on their own ministries and experience. We realised that this was an important watershed moment and that there were very important messages to be shared widely in the Communion, hence this communiqué which has been drafted by the group.
- Health and Healing are a Mission imperative.
- The assets of faith communities represent enormous spiritual and social capital that makes an impact on the health of the people.
- Supportive family and social relationships are a very important ingredient of mental, physical and spiritual health.
- Thankfully there is increasing evidence for the value of holistic care; this needs to be widely publicised.
- The importance of faith and churches in healthcare has not been sufficiently documented—what we take for granted really matters but is not widely understood.
- Evidence-based documentation of our contributions to health in our communities will help us gain access to partnerships with governmental and non-governmental agencies.
- Churches need to re-assert their value as healthcare partners with governments. The advocacy of Bishops is vital.
The health mission of Anglican churches would benefit from being connected within the Anglican Communion and through networking with other churches.
The Faith in Health and Healing conference in Birmingham focused on much of this evidence and shared powerful stories of the difference faith and churches can make. The communication tools which are being set up following the conference will enable all Provinces to access this information and share their own good news.
Almost 200 people took part, and around 60 different sessions were presented. With a strong following among professionals from churches and health services from the UK, participants also came from the United States, Canada, Barbados, Palestine/Israel, Norway, Germany, Ireland, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. A range of Christian traditions was represented and it was a privilege to hear from an innovative Sikh project also.
At the two day meeting in the Anglican Communion Office, London, that followed the conference in Birmingham, the following Provinces were represented: the Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church of Ireland, the Church in the Province of the West Indies, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, the Church of Ceylon and the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia.
On the final afternoon of the meeting, the group was joined by four Anglican health administrators who, facilitated by the Anglican Alliance, were participating in a Commonwealth Fellowship scheme in the UK. This added representation from Tanzania, Kenya and Pakistan.
As well as considering the learning of the Faith in Health and Healing conference and how that might inspire work in our various churches, the group consulted further with Sally Keeble of the Anglican Alliance, Jan Butter, Director for Communications at the Anglican Communion Office (ACO), John Kafwanka, Director for Mission at the ACO, Janette O'Neil, Chief Executive of Us (formerly USPG) and Helen Stawski, Archbishop of Canterbury's Deputy Secretary for International Development.
The future development of the Anglican Health Network was discussed and plans made. The powerful role of web-based resources and social media for facilitating the all-important connections around the Communion was recognised, some existing websites were identified, new ones commissioned and social media links created.
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Source: Anglican Communion News Service