Church Leaders Consultation on “Healing Ministry and the Role of the Churches and Hospitals”.

Christian Medical Association of India as the official health arm of the National Council of Churches in India has the mandate to equip the churches in responding to the healing ministry. The National Consultation will bring Church leaders from various denominations and the leaders of hospitals governed by the church together for a time of introspection and review on the contribution of Christian health services to the health challenges. Moreover, it will also be a time to dig deeper into the issues preventing or stopping us from fulfilling our role in the healing ministry.

We as the network of Christian healthcare professionals, institutions and churches are facing real challenges with regard to persisting with our vision and mission. In today’s context, we find most Christian mission hospitals – and some of its educational institutions –in a state of disarray, with out-dated infrastructure, poorly financed, equipped and staffed, struggling to eke out a living for those dependent on them. Our mission hospitals are closing down at a rapid pace. From the 900-odd thriving mission hospitals in the country at the time of independence, we are barely numbering 200 or so, most of which are struggling to keep afloat. And it is NOT for the lack of relevance of these institutions, as many are still situated in areas of tremendous need – it is simply that there is no one willing to man them, with courage and conviction that they are still tremendously useful tools in the Hands of the Master1.

Based on these insights, the common platform will facilitate discussions on strategic ways for the Church to engage with the hospitals and communities around them in a beneficial and holistic way. The question “What is stopping us?” needs to be addressed constructively.

A publication of Christian Connections for International Health, titled “The future of Christian Hospitals in Developing Countries – The Call for a New Paradigm of Ministry” in the year 2000 came up with **3 scenarios and possible suggestions which are relevant today. They are as follows:

Scenario 1

What if competition diminishes the viability of Christian hospitals, including new government services that were not previously available?

Suggestion to the Church and its hospitals: Focus must be on primary and secondary level care keeping the community needs in mind. Creating of a local insurance system will be beneficial. A few years ago, the President of India’s National Board of Examinations went on record as saying that about 90 percent of India’s health needs could be managed by doctors trained in Family Medicine. About 5-7 percent could be managed by doctors trained in Rural Surgery. Only about 2-3 percent of India’s sick needed to see a specialist!

Scenario 2

What if Christian Hospitals resources are dwindling and it is threatened with closure?

Suggestion to the Church and its hospitals: Discuss with the community to become more relevant to them from their perspective. Empower the community and create a sense of ownership of the mission hospital. For this to be realised some introspection and a change of objectives of the hospital may be required. Use of locally available resources including man power must be done. Training programmes by the hospital should be encouraged and increased in number.

Scenario 3

What if, in the communities it serves, the hospital has no impact on the health and the spiritual lives of people and has mission objectives that are no longer relevant to the needs of people.

Suggestion to the Church and its hospitals: An internal assessment to be done and assess whether the activities of the hospital are aligned clearly to its vision and mission. To take into cognizance the commitment of the staff and leadership. Quality Improvement of hospitals must be given priority.

With these scenarios in the background and still relevant 14 years later, in June 2014, 60 health professionals and representatives of churches, mission societies, church-based and secular organizations, academics in medicine, health economics and theology came together for the international symposium on “Christian Reponses to Health and Development” in Tübingen, Germany. As a result of the meeting, “A call to health and healing – Declaration Tübingen III” was developed and published.  The call clearly states that “The Christian Church continues to have a unique, relevant and specific role to play in Health, Health Care, Healing and Wholeness in changing contexts and in all regions of the world.”

With this in mind, in partnership with the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), two  Church Leaders Consultation on “Healing Ministry and role of Churches and Hospitals” were organised

  • Conference Hall of the CBCNEI at Guwahati on the 16th and 17th of February, 2017.
  • Sadhu Sunder Singh Hall, CNI Bhavan New Delhi on 14th March 2017.

The main objectives of the Consultation were

  • To understand the role of the Church in the healing ministry and to effectively address the gaps.
  • To establish a strong network to support the Healing Ministry

The expected outcome is to have a clear picture how the structure of the church can enhance the Healing Ministry and to engage in sharing of good practices and meaningful dialogue on the way forward.

Conference Hall of the CBCNEI at Guwahati on the 16th and 17th of February, 2017.

24 participants attended the meeting from various states of Northeast (Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland) representing 5 different Churches and 12 Mission Hospitals. There was a presentation on the uniqueness of Christian Contribution to Healthcare in India and the challenges. The presentation was based on the preliminary findings from the Member Institutions in the Northeast region of the CMAI Institutional Documentation exercise.  The main highlights were that our mission hospitals were serving in an average of 2-4 districts, out of which few were the high priority districts as identified by the Government of India. They all served vulnerable populations and elderly care was a priority in all the hospitals. Palliative care was not done in most of the hospitals. The Governance structures were unique to each of the institutions. Outreach work was not present in all the hospitals and this was a concern.

This was followed by the session where all the Churches and institutions presented their Vision, Mission and Governance. During the presentation, all the participants were very much open about the challenges they faced and the difficulties in performing their duties.

This was followed by a session where the best practices in Healing Ministry from different churches and institutions were presented. The purpose of this session was to promote cross learning.

  • Repositioning Ailing Institutions – Experience at Makunda (past 24 years) by Dr Vijay Anand of Makunda Hospital a unit of EHA.
  • Best practice of Catholic Hospitals by Dr Gordon Rangad from Nazareth Hospital Shillong.
  • Congregation based health activities by Dr Ronald Lalthanmawia (CMAI)

The last session of the day was the Panel Discussion led by Rev Dr Roger Gaikwad and facilitated by Dr Ronald Lalthanmawia on “Where do we go from here?”

Sadhu Sunder Singh Hall, CNI Bhavan New Delhi on 14th March 2017.

This consultation was mainly Church leaders from various Protestant and Orthodox denominations. 14 mainline churches under the NCCI were represented with a total of 28 participants. This meeting was more of a sensitisation on the challenges faced by the hospitals in the healing ministry as the Church leadership was unaware of CMAI and its activities as well as the challenges faced by the hospital. Rev  Dr Roger Gaikwad welcomed the gathering and pointed out the need for an integrated approach with the church and the hospital synergising and bringing about the much needed change.  The General Secretary of CNI expressed his concern about the Christian medical colleges and their freedom to function as minorities. Dr Vijay Anand and Dr Gordon Rangad presented their experiences in the mission field after Dr Bimal challenged the church in its mission and vision, especially with relation to hearing

Some of the recommendations from both consultations include:

Focus and reach to vulnerable, poor and marginalized communities:

As our mandate, the institutions need to be more focused on involvement with the poor (poor-friendly, vulnerable – friendly) hearing the cries of the poor, marginalized, psychiatric patients, people/children with special needs. The institutions should have more outreach work not in terms of mobile clinics but being present in the community. We should not wait for the poor to come to us but reach out to them. Identity is pro-poor institutions but continue to strive for excellence. Church can help by calling for donations- Eg Patient centric request

God has given us health and this has to be shared with the people. Church must share the need of the hospital. Church can request from the rich and give the poor. Better to change from a concept of giving out charity and progress toward empowerment.

Church leadership expressed that there is a very big need for human resource. Healing ministry goes beyond the hospitals and we cannot equate medical ministry with healing ministry. Many Christian doctors working in the private side, a mechanism to bring them as volunteers and a human resource pool is being envisaged by CMAI.

Engaging with congregations:

There should be more programme focusing on Church and lay leaders training on healing ministry at different level for better understanding. There should be volunteers training in different aspect of healing ministry. There should be Sunday school materials on healing ministry to engage and sensitize youth from young age. There should be more community/congregation owned programme – encouraged, engaged and empowered in the healing ministry. Church should identify the need and identify people for the need

 Governance and structure

To church Health Committees should include external person as part of the health committee formally and not only as invitee. CMAI can play a role of interface/facilitators between church and hospital board which should be strengthened. Church plays an important role in student, junior doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals’ mobilization. There should be exchange programme and exposure visit. Church and hospital leaders’ consultation should be held on a regular basis – strategic planning on the need and how to respond to the unmet need. CMAI should take forward an Organizational Development process to develop hospital one on one basis. Research and innovation on best practices – documentation and dissemination should be conducted and made available for membership. Self-assessment of integrity, ethical practices etc (non-negotiable – health of the institutions) through a credit rating of CMAI hospital – mission, meeting the unmet need, best use of funds, accessibility for the poor, insurgent and war area, mentoring process, quality of leadership, best practices documentation.

Networking role of the Church

As the Church, it is important to speak up and advocate for various issues. The churches must connect with and talk to their local MP and Bureaucracy about the challenges. Ownership of the healing ministry is crucial. In the area of health promotion and prevention of diseases the church can be more efficient and effective. Advocate for equality and equity for the poor and cooperate with the Government. CMAI can help and support this through technical inputs and creating platforms for discussion and dialogue between the church and hospital.

Source: This report which has the background, reports of both Guwahati and Delhi Consultations and some of the recommendations from the consultations, was sent to us by Dr. Abhijeet Sangma.

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