COVID 19 vaccination named missional priority

The Connectional Table, a United Methodist leadership body, identifies COVID-19 vaccine distribution as a missional priority for the denomination. The move aims to strengthen ongoing efforts to get shots in arms. Photo by Arek Socha, courtesy of Pixabay; graphic by Laurens Glass, UM News.
The Connectional Table, a United Methodist leadership body, identifies COVID-19 vaccine distribution as a missional priority for the denomination. The move aims to strengthen ongoing efforts to get shots in arms. Photo by Arek Socha, courtesy of Pixabay; graphic by Laurens Glass, UM News.
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A United Methodist leadership body declared increasing vaccinations against COVID-19 a denomination-wide “missional priority.”

The Connectional Table’s move aims to make the fight against the coronavirus as much a focus as previous denominational initiatives to combat malaria and Ebola.

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The leadership body also hopes to bolster current United Methodist efforts to counter misinformation and get more shots in arms.

“With more than 4 and half million deaths and counting worldwide from COVID-19 and vast disparities in vaccine distribution, there is a clear need for a massive and sustained effort to address this tragedy,” said the Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai, the group’s chief connectional ministries officer.

The 64-member Connectional Table acts as a sort of international church council that works to harmonize ministry and resources across general agencies and other church entities. Part of the group’s purpose is to coordinate the program life of the church with Gospel mandates, the denomination’s mission and global needs in mind.

In light of that purpose, Bigham-Tsai said the Connectional Table has a role to play in responding to the pandemic. She presented a motion from the Connectional Table’s executive committee at the September virtual meeting.

“As an expression of discipleship and love of neighbor, the Connectional Table calls The United Methodist Church to address the inequities of COVID-19 vaccine access and education as a missional priority. We call the whole United Methodist Church to a prophetic and missional response to the critical need for global vaccine equity, access and education.”

While there was broad agreement on the motion, the leadership body is still working out the details of how to carry it out.

Typically, General Conference — the denomination’s top legislative assembly — adopts new missional priorities. However, the pandemic already has twice pushed back the big meeting, originally set for May 2020, and is complicating plans to keep to the new schedule of Aug. 29-Sept. 6, 2022, in Minneapolis.

“We can’t wait for General Conference to act. That’s too late,” said Dave Nuckols, using the meeting’s chat function. He is the Connectional Table’s treasurer and a General Conference delegate from Minnesota.

Since the beginning of this year, United Methodist congregations, colleges, agencies and medical professionals have been working to extend access and overcome vaccine skepticism.

The U.S. has started to administer booster shots to people who are immunocompromised, and there are discussions about the possibility of boosters for others.

While the World Health Organization has criticized the push for boosters when so many countries are still struggling to provide a first dose, Connectional Table members offered a different perspective.

“We have to be clear that while we are concerned about issues of equity and justice around vaccines, we should not stop people from getting booster shots if needed,” said North Katanga Area Bishop Mande Muyombo, incoming chair of the Connectional Table.

“The message is we have to encourage everyone to have vaccines.”

excerpt from a story from Heather Hahn, assistant news editor, UMNS

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