Global Summit on Malaria Framing

I have often written about how framing affects
the ability of mainline denominations to achieve visibility in mainstream media.
Here is an example.

I often write about how framing affects the ability of mainline denominations to project themselves into the public dialogue. A recent example appeared the New York Times coverage of the White House Summit on Malaria.

The second paragraph of an article about the Summit reads: The gathering highlighted the growing efforts of influential evangelical, business and charitable leaders to raise money and mobilize volunteers against malaria, which kills 800,000 African children each year. Their rallying cry: Donate $10 for a mosquito net, save a life.

Here’s the framing issue. A unique partnership (Nothing But Nets) between a mainline religious denomination and several major non-religious organizations was cited twice by speakers in the Summit and was the source for the call to action–“Donate $10.00 for a mosquito net and save a life”. A mainline denomination (The Episcopal Church) presented from the podium at the Summit. General Secretary Randy Day, head of the General Board of Global Ministries represented the people of The United Methodist Church at the Summit.

Mainline denominations have played a significant role in calling attention to poverty and the diseases of poverty for more than 200 years. In The United Methodist Church, for example, in the past year, more than 167,000 United Methodists volunteered in various mission efforts in the U.S. and beyond, efforts to build clinics, care for AIDS orphans, provide direct medical services, empower women, and create sustainable development among the poor. They do this without regard for public acclaim. They do it because it’s the right ting to do and their church teaches it’s one way, a very basic way, they can live their faith.–yet the story is framed by the presence of “influential evangelical leaders.”

I really don’t have anything against evangelical leaders. I’m glad they were there. More power to them. I fully support the bottom line: Send a net. Save a life. I am keeping my eye on that ultimate goal.

But if the leaders and members of mainline denominations are to be encouraged to participate in these partnerships, they not only deserve recognition, they also deserve to know their commitment is valued and makes a difference.

So, to my mainline friends and colleagues, I write simply to say: You are important to this cause and to many other causes that alleviate suffering and contribute to the quality of life of millions around the globe. You, perhaps more than most, understand that the Christian movement is truly its most authentic and faithful when it partners with the vulnerable, the poor and the left out, to heal, empower and manifest hope. Your voice is important. You stand in a tradition that has historically stood for justice and mercy. Your predecessors challenged slavery and put it to its deserved end. You gave support to the aspirations of the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. and we’re a better nation for it.

Your voice is influential in the places where it matters. It harmonizes with those who lack voice, or whose voices are not being heard. Your advocacy is important in achieving just and merciful policies to benefit those with whom you stand in solidarity. Your active involvement through volunteering on the ground changes lives. And the money you raise is put to good use. It brings healing and seeds hope.

Whether the mainstream media understands this or not, millions of other do. And so I hope you do not minimize your importance, nor feel diminished by framing that excludes you. You are the glue that holds much together because you are among those who plug away with consistency and stay for the long-term.

Whether the mainstream media understands this or not, millions of other do.

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