Saturday, October 02, 2010

ELCA Pulls Out of Lutheran Malaria Initiative

Shrimp here, with the disappointing news that the ELCA pulling out of the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, which "mobilizes the nearly 8 million Lutherans in the United States in the global fight against malaria." The initiative, which was given considerable prominence during the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, was to be a joint effort of the ELCA, LCMS, and Lutheran World Relief working with the United Nations Foundation.

The ELCA News Service announced the ELCA's withdrawal Thursday in the following news release:

ELCA Strengthens Malaria Work Through New, Focused Effort


CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), announced Sept. 30 that the ELCA will maintain and build its commitment toward a comprehensive effort to contain and prevent malaria, while making some changes to the structure of the project. The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly authorized continued development of a campaign to respond to malaria.

"Our commitment to sisters and brothers in Africa remains firm," Hanson said. "This new, focused effort will assist the ELCA to keep our commitments strong and allow us to bring health and hope to those affected by malaria in Africa."

The project, known as the "ELCA Malaria Campaign," has been "right-sized" for the current realities of the ELCA, the presiding bishop added.

Hanson noted there have been declines in mission support and other income sources to the ELCA. Because of those financial realities, he said that ELCA churchwide leaders determined that it was not feasible to propose a $30 million LMI fundraising campaign to the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

As a result the ELCA churchwide organization withdrew a grant proposal to the United Nations Foundation (UNF), ending the ELCA's involvement in the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI) partnership, Hanson said. The LMI was to be a partnership of the ELCA, Lutheran World Relief (LWR), The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the UNF. The ELCA's withdrawal from the UNF grant process should not be seen as a reflection on the ELCA's working relationship with any of the other partners, Hanson said.
(Oh, yeah. We didn't mention that the "annoucement" was put down in the fourth paragraph, did we. The news release continues....)
The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly authorized "continued development" of the LMI with the other partners. The assembly also requested that a report and recommendations for a "possible churchwide campaign" for the LMI be brought to the 2011 assembly.

In keeping with the spirit of the assembly action, the ELCA Malaria Campaign intends to engage with at least 10 companion churches in Africa to contain, prevent and treat malaria, Hanson said. The new ELCA initiative will build on work already done by companion churches in Africa and pilot synods of the ELCA, and it will carry forward much of the work done through the LMI, he said.

Hanson said he will present to the ELCA Church Council in November a proposal for the ELCA Malaria Campaign. The council is the ELCA's board of directors and interim legislative authority between churchwide assemblies. A proposal for a possible churchwide fundraising campaign is expected to be presented to the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

For now the ELCA churchwide organization will continue to develop the ELCA Malaria Campaign, and encourage prayer, advocacy, education and fundraising. Some "pilot synods" of the ELCA will continue their work to develop the ELCA's malaria effort, Hanson said. There are 10 pilot synods for 2010-2011.

Though the ELCA will not be part of LMI, the church plans to work cooperatively with LWR in Tanzania and other places where working together advances the malaria prevention and treatment effort, Hanson said. "We are also exploring a possible shared approach in malaria fundraising at ELCA colleges and universities with LWR," he said.

Companion churches and the ELCA Global Mission program unit will continue to work with the Global Fund "as these churches grow in their capacity to respond to HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria," said Hanson, adding the ELCA's continuing involvement in "Nothing But Nets" is still under consideration.
How's that for spin?

A "breaking news" post Thursday at The Lutheran magazine's blog by Associate Editor Elizabeth Hunter takes a different approach:

ELCA: $30 million malaria campaign 'not feasible'

A proposed $30 million ELCA campaign around malaria will no longer go forward, but the ELCA will continue raising funds for malaria, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson wrote in a Sept. 30 email to churchwide staff.

"In recent months, mission support to the ELCA and support of ELCA World Hunger have declined significantly, and many synods and congregations are also struggling to deal with hard financial realities," Hanson wrote. "In the light of this difficult economic situation, ELCA leadership has determined that a $30 million campaign around malaria, which was to be tested in the current biennium, is not feasible at this time. Therefore, the decision has been made to withdraw the ELCA's grant proposal to the United Nations Foundation and to end the partnership that was entitled "Lutheran Malaria Initiative."

Hanson said the church's commitment to malaria work, global health and companions in Africa is "firm."

"The new ELCA initiative, will carry forward much of the work that the ELCA had been doing under the rubric of the Lutheran Malaria Initiative," Hanson wrote. "The ELCA Malaria Campaign, as it will now be known, will direct all of its funds to our companion churches in Africa (90 percent) and to our fund-raising efforts (10 percent)." According to Hanson, the proposed UNF-related campaign would have required that "30 percent of funds raised to go to the Global Fund and 20 percent to be used for capacity building to encourage companion churches to participate in Global Fund country efforts." Fifty percent of ELCA funds would have supported malaria work among ELCA partners.

Hanson wrote that leaders had "right-sized" the malaria efforts given "current realities of the ELCA." Raising $15 million "will be a challenge in the current economic environment, but is both doable and ambitious enough to meet the commitments that we have made to our companion churches in Africa," Hanson wrote. "The ELCA Malaria Campaign will continue to work closely with ELCA World Hunger, and to underscore the global health connections between malaria containment and ministry with those living with HIV and AIDS."

Hanson said that rather than compete with "core World Hunger work," the ELCA Malaria Campaign will "build further capacity" by reaching new donors and allowing current donors "to deepen their commitment above and beyond normal World Hunger giving."
There's more, which you can read here.

Incidentally, we're struck by the timing of this announcement, for also on Thursday began the Fall Meeting of the ELCA Conference of Bishops, which runs through Tuesday. The ELCA Church Council begins its next meeting on Friday.

Meanwhile, if you go to you'll notice that the page has been renamed ELCA Malaria Campaign.

Shrimp out.


Clam said...

Considering that the LMI was supposed to be a joint venture with the LCMS, I wonder whether Missouri played any role in this decision?

Anonymous said...

LCMS didn't have anything to do with this -- the LMI project had already splintered into two distinct projects under the umbrella of LMI. This is all about the ELCA being in deep trouble financially because of big congregations breaking away.

Big mistake for the ELCA. They have no idea how much they have lost by turning their backs on global partners like the Global Fund and the United Nations Foundation.

Tony said...

Can you imagine a newspaper headline that read "City Transit Service to Buy New Bus" and waited until the middle of the story about bids and process to reveal that 38 people had died that day in a tragic bus fire? Yet that is what the ELCA press releases have been doing.

The Malaria story buries the lead that the LMI is being defunded by claiming to being focused on prioritizing the deaths of 1 million people a year (half of them children). The real story, as you point out, is that they are quitting it.

Then on 10/11, we get this headline:
"ELCA Presiding Bishop Announces New Churchwide Organization Design for 2011." The real story? almost 20% of the staff is being cut!

Makes me wonder just what they mean when they write this headline: ELCA Deeply Committed to Revitalizing Congregations. Sounds like a property sale to me.

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
Or the Shellfish blog...