Jesus is the Sick – to be healed

By David W. Virtue

“It is not enough for us to say: ‘I love God, but I do not love my neighbor.’ Saint John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don’t love your neighbor. (1 John 4:20) How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so this is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt.” – Mother Teresa

Caring for the poor and the sick is an intrinsic part of gospel outreach. In His earthly ministry Jesus touched bodies and souls. He healed the sick and the broken-hearted, raised the dead and preached good news to the poor. He gave sight to the blind. He ultimately gave himself.

Now 2000 years later that same call is being carried out by Christian men and women – life givers – who have heard the call of Christ and purpose to carry out His teaching in the healing arts.

Dr. Val Finnell is Executive Director of the newly formed Anglican Health Ministries (AHM) and the brainchild behind the idea that local parishes should have it in their mission to share the gospel of Jesus Christ through holistic care that integrates body, mind, and soul. “As a Christian and medical person I have always wanted to integrate my work with my faith and in this new ministry I can bring the two together,” said Finnell, who currently serves as Chief of the Medical Staff at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California.

The evolution of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which now has close to 1,000 congregations across the country, prompted the medical doctor with a pedigree background to think how Anglicans might serve both themselves and others. “The most important thing to realize about AHM is that it is a decentralized network. AHM is not a command-and-control organization. While we have leadership from our Executive Director and Bishop, the organization itself is a distributed network with no centralized hierarchy.

As such, AHM leaders are catalysts for action rather than CEOs. As such it follows the principles of ‘leaderless’ organizations where individuals, parishes, and mission partners collaborate to creatively find the best solutions for health ministry in their local communities. AHM’s website uses social media technology to bring groups, forums, wikis, and document sharing to ministry collaborators. Groups have already been started for parish nursing, medical missions, free clinics, health education/promotion, addiction/recovery ministry, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and Community Health Evangelism/Neighborhood Transformation,” Finnell commented.

“The most exciting part of Anglican Health Ministries is the ability to bring interested people together to learn, collaborate, and share information with each other and various subject matter experts. Our only rules are our statement of ‘Purpose, Principles and Intent’ that solidly forms our orthodox, Anglican identity. Beyond this, everyone is free to develop health ministries consistent with their interests, knowledge, skills, and abilities.”

Network Leaders are subject matter experts who facilitate discussion and share knowledge. AHM recently asked Sr. Sarah Masterson begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting, a chiropractor and Franciscan Sister from the Diocese of Quincy, to serve as the Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) network leader.

“The experience of companies like VISA and Web 2.0 applications like Wikipedia, Facebook, and LinkedIn prove that distributed organizations are unstoppable. They break the command-and-control paradigm of most church mission boards through decentralization and trust,” explained Dr. Finnell. “Gone are the days when a remote committee or mission board develops church programs and pushes them out to congregations. Organic, collaborative development is what is happening online every day. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to create locally grown and adaptable ministries that heal people and share the gospel.”

AHM has already developed an impressive set of mission partners, including the Anglican Relief and Development Fund (ARDF), the Collaborative for Neighborhood Transformation, and LifeWind International. Another is in the works to provide a turnkey solution to parishes that want to start free medical clinics. Training in Community Health Evangelism (CHE) and Neighborhood Transformation (NT) is being planned in August of 2011 for the Los Angeles area.

“Finally, I want to stress that health ministry is not an end in itself. We must never forget that our aim is to bring each person into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and make disciples through health ministry. As Jesus said, ‘heal the sick… and say to them, the kingdom of God has come near to you. ‘(Luke 10:9)”

Finnell outlined his 10 principles for Anglican Health Ministries as follows:

1. We affirm Article I of the Constitution of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as our core tenets of faith

2. We affirm that care for the poor and the sick is a fundamental principle of the Christian faith.

3. We believe that each human being is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and has fundamental dignity as a person.

4. The intentional taking of human life through abortion and euthanasia is a direct assault on the image of God. We will never allow ourselves to be involved with those who do or advocate such things (2 Cor 6:14; Eph 5:7, 11; 1 Jn 1:6).

5. We will never offer any service on a quid pro quo basis, always respecting the fundamental dignity of each person.

6. We seek to emulate Jesus Christ as the Great Physician who heals our entire being (body, mind, and soul).

7. Health ministry is not an end in itself. We must never forget that our aim is to bring each person into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and make disciples through health ministry.

8. We affirm that the local parish is the chief agency to advance the Kingdom of God in the world. Local parishes will have the freedom and creativity to organize health ministries in accordance with the needs of their communities and commensurate with their knowledge, skills, and abilities. These ministries may include free medical clinics, parish nursing, patient advocacy, community health evangelism, disease support groups, or other ministries identified by the parish.

9. We are a networked, collaborative organization that seeks to share knowledge and build community among those involved in health ministry throughout the ACNA. Leaders will emerge from this paradigm and share their experiences.

10. We will cooperate with other people and organizations outside of the ACNA to achieve our goals, consistent with these principles. Finnell’s clear intention is to obtain episcopal endorsement for Anglican Health Ministries in each diocese of the ACNA, including the Primate’s (Archbishop Robert Duncan) endorsement; recruit volunteers for parish-based health ministries in each diocese of the ACNA; by the end of 2011, have leadership for parish nursing (faith community nursing), patient advocacy, or other initiatives (identified locally) established; to network and share information with stakeholders through online interaction and compile a database of medical, nursing, and lay people who are interested in international medical missions and disaster relief operations.

“I am really excited by this new venture. God is doing a new thing in North America with a renewed understanding of what it means to be truly Anglican and also what it means to care for one’s neighbor.”

Dr. Finnell comes well qualified for the job. He holds an MD, MPH and is board certified in preventive medicine and public health. He is also a postulant for Holy Orders in the Missionary Diocese of All Saints (MDAS) and a seminarian at Nashotah House. Anglican Health Ministries comes under the Episcopal oversight of The Rt. Rev. William H. Ilgenfritz of the MDAS. AHM exists as an integral auxiliary within the diocese. For more information go to their website:

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