Monday, March 26, 2007

Nothing But Nets and Saving Children!

"You see, malaria is a big deal. It's one of the root causes of poverty. It kills a million people a year, 75 percent of whom are children. When you think about it in those terms, it's a daunting reality. Yet, there is a simple way for everyone who reads this to participate in beating this disease -- spend $10, send a bed net and save a life. That's it! That's all it takes! Buy a net -- save a life. End of story. Better yet, end of disease........Wow! Imagine it -- a world without malaria. Millions of people given the same chance as you and I to live a long, healthy, and sustainable life."
--- Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton of the Western PA Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in January 19, 2007 issue of InterLink, the conference newspaper.

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton is deeply involved and totally committed to the "Nothing But Nets" campaign. He is the head man of the Western PA Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. This piece of real estate takes in about the western 1/3 of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The conference has been saturated with information and challenge to get involved by purchasing insecticide-treated bed nets to curtail the spread of malaria in Africa.

Statistics cited by Bishop B. are that about 1 million people die a year from malaria and of that number, about 750,000 are children. Hence, the appeal to go to the rescue and start reducing the number of fatalities.

This is not intended to take away from the effort nor diminish its importance. My wife and I will be giving support to this effort. Those reading this can obtain more information and how to give support by going to U.S. Netting or [NOTE: If you go to the Nothing But Nets web site, the stats there will tell you that 1 million children a year are victims of malaria which is a quarter of a million more than quoted by Bishop B. above.]

However, it is necessary to point out a glaring inconsistency here which is quite commonplace among UMC bishops, particularly in recent decades as they have stressed the need to be in ministry to children.

Bishop Bickerton is pushing the NBN campaign and states that about 3/4 of a million children in Africa die each year from malaria. Now then, how often have you heard this bishop deplore (either in vocal statements or in his InterLink column) the fact that well over 1 million unborn children are deliberately mutilated and murdered each year in "the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

The bishop is also at the heart of the "Believe Again" strategic plan for ministry in the W. PA Annual Conference which was enthusiastically adopted last June at the annual meeting. One of the plush "perks" he will personally get in time will be a full time assistant to the tune of a few tens of thousands of dollars per year!

A part of the strategy in this "plan" is an emphasis on church congregations addressing issues of injustice and seeking to come to the assistance of those who are the victims of injustice.

I have yet to receive a reply from the bishop or any of his superintendents (there are 10 of these people) when I asked them in a personal letter addressed to each if they as leaders were going to address the issue of injustice that results in the intentional and brutal murders of over 1 million unborn children each year in this republic.

There has been this strange and very unsettling silence on the part of UMC leadership over the years when it comes to the United States' version of "holocaust." Perhaps this takes place because of the "official" statement in the denomination's Book of Discipline relative to the subject of abortion. The United Methodist Church is on record as declaring a "reluctance" to approve of abortion, but then after mentioning the reluctance thing, goes right ahead and gives a green light to the heinous practice anyway, saying that an unacceptable pregnancy may bring about hardship, stress or whatever!

In personal communication with bishops over the years, one told me that she stands by the position of the church (as cited above), so whatever the church decides at a General Conference (every 4 years) that is what she will support. Presumably if the UMC decided to jump off the highest point of the Grand Canyon into the river below, she would jump too without objection. Another bishop did go so far as to state in a response that abortion is a serious issue, but I was making too much of the issue, etc!

Unfortunately there are too many United Methodists who hold bishops in higher regard than Roman Catholics hold the Pope! When they say "Jump!" the standard response is "How high, and for how long?" And when they speak there are those who hold that every word spoken is "gospel truth," but documented evidence can prove otherwise in a number of cases! There are still a few of us that believe there is a much higher Authority than any designated church leader, UMC bishops included, and sometimes this will mean we definitly will be marching to the beat of a different Drummer!

How about rephrasing Bishop Bickerton's statement above with use of another word in this manner --

"Wow! Imagine it -- a world without abortion. Millions of people given the same chance as you and I to live a long, healthy, and sustainable life."

Do you think the bishop would be willing to make such a statement and lead the way to making that a reality with enthusiastic support from his fellow bishops?

We all know the answer to that one, do we not?

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