Posted by: Titus Presler | April 21, 2011

United Methodists advertise Africa malaria outreach

It was striking to hear on National Public Radio this morning a brief corporate sponsor notation that, roughly, went something like this:

Morning Edition is supported by the people of the United Methodist Church, committed to eliminating malaria in Africa.  For more information, go to

Corporate sponsorships on NPR are not cheap.  This spot was very brief, and I don’t know how often it is running.  Still, I am impressed that the United Methodist Church is putting its initiative to combat malaria out in front of the general public.

The denomination is identifying itself to the public as committed to a major missional initiative in the wider world.  Malaria, like the resurgence of tuberculosis and the continuing challenge of AIDS, has caught on with many in recent years as a scourge that kills millions and that can be significantly mitigated and maybe even eliminated.  Its causes and cures seem simpler and easier to address than those of either TB or AIDS, so it’s an easier sell to the charitable and missional publics.

Good in the spot is the phrase, “the people of the United Methodist Church.”  Not the church alone as a theological and corporate entity, but the people of the church, emphasizing broad-based support.  That phrase recurs on the Imagine No Malaria website.

In advertising its malaria initiative the church is also advertising itself.  A subliminal message is: “Hey, as a church we’re not just into ourselves, we’re serving the world.  Check us out!”  That’s not only OK, but good.  Many people today who yearn for spiritual community want to be associated not only with a warm and welcoming fellowship but with a group committed to making a difference in the world.  So the effect of the spot is to link the church with mission, and in this case a particular mission that many people can affirm.

The website emphasizes a multi-faceted approach of health teams, bed nets, training local workers and the like, noting that the UMC has been at medical work in Africa for over 160 years, so it is no latecomer to contemporary urgencies.  “Where the road runs out, we are there,” it says, and I can testify to the truth of that for the UMC, as well as for other churches.

Kudos to the UMC for getting its word out there.


  1. Titus, you may not be aware that Don just started a job (last Friday) with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries – the very folks who are making such a difference in Africa! He is really excited about this new opportunity. I will tell him about your blog entry today.

    I hope you and yours are well – and that you have an Easter that overflows with joy!

    • Hi Sam! No I did not know that. I will be interested to know what his particular role is. The General Board of Global Ministries is a major player in world mission, of course, and its work is one of the four reference points I use in “Going Global with God: Reconciling Mission in a World of Difference,” the others being the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Episcopal Church. Don might be interested in looking at that. My late parents were missionaries of the UMC, and the photograph at the top of my blog is from Leonard Theological College, where they taught from the 1940s into the 1970s. It is primarily a Methodist institution, though supported also by the Church of North India, Church of South India, and Mar Thoma Church. A blessed Easter to y’all as well!

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