I searched in vain for mention of health as a topic in this conference. Why is this? Health is not only of major concern for ordinary people and also grossly unequal across the world – the the great commission of Our Lord is to Proclaim the Kingdom is at hand : heal the sick. The task of evangelism is to “make disciples” – in other words those who seek to emulate their master in every way – and He spent a great deal of his ministry in dealing with sick people, interacting with them and treating them as whole people. His healing was in response to compassion, and not as a bait to gain belief (eg the ten with leprosy) although this compassion itself is his supreme quality of agape love and the reason we respond to that love by life-long commitment.
Why then is health, whole-person healing, the underpinning of healthcare practice with Christian principles rather than allowing the reductionist model to remain king, empowering doctors and nurses to be Jesus to their patients – why is it not on the agenda? Why is not a scientific understanding of the way body, mind and spirit interact in health and illness a part of theological training for our pastors (after all they may spend a lot of their time visiting the sick in their congregations)? Is it perhaps because the heresy that best the early church, and that epistle writers railed against, is still prevalent – the concept of Plato that the spiritual was all that mattered and that the body was dirty and of no importance. This elevates that which is done in church of greatest importance, elevates the function of the priest over that of the laity, makes proselytization more important than compassionate care. Yet in Christ’s own foretelling of what will happen on the day of judgment, we do not find priestly function, proselytization or even evangelism mentioned as criteria of being a sheep rather than a goat.