The first week of the United Methodist Church’s General Assembly ended with a call for the church "to put its money where its mouth is" in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic, April 30, 2004.
"Over the past 20 years, the church has passed a number of well-written resolutions but generally has not put the money where their mouth is," said the Rev. Donald Messer, author of Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence: Christian Churches and the Global AIDS Crisis. "We have relied heavily on the Board of Global Ministries to carry on the work of AIDS in the world, but we have not given them any special money for that work."
Messer proposed that $4 million of additional funds be allocated to the global AIDS effort.
Linda Bales, a staff member of the United Methodist Church’s Board of Church and Society, and the Bishop Felton E. May of the church’s Washington D.C. area, joined Messer in briefing the delegates about the extent of the AIDS crises in Africa.
During the briefing, the panelists pointed out that of the 42 million people living with HIV/AIDS, 29.5 of them are in sub-Saharan Africa. Also, since “the people in Africa are of no economic value, “ the Bush Administration would most likely not fight for them.
"As a church, we can't really point a finger at the (Bush) administration when we as a church talk and pray and do precious little to leverage the kind of support we really have to deal with this issue," said Bishop May.
Reminding the delegates that the $4 million additional funds would to strengthen the programs already in place, Messer encouraged them to think of ways to gather that money.
"It is my hope that 25 percent of the funds raised by annual conferences would stay in the annual conferences and 75 percent would go to the general fund to keep the focus both at home and abroad.
"I would hope it would be more than just a traditional United Methodist program that creates committees and subcommittees within our general boards and agencies," May said. "If we are going to generate that amount of money, I hope we are going to train people to be advocates to help our government to spend tax dollars in a way that is going to bring wholeness and healing and well-being to communities and nations."
Bales agreed that there must be more active ways in gathering and maximizing the money.
"We need to empower women around the world, to give them choices and economic security," she said. "The most endangered people in the world are married women."
"We need a holy and bold attitude to use those funds creatively to make adjustments in a system that excludes the poor and improvised, the diseased and disenfranchised, not only here in this country but around the world," May said.
The delegates will vote on increasing funds to the HIV/AIDS cause next week.