October 2021 – Drew’s Religion and Global Health Forum, in collaboration with Auburn Seminary, hosted Trust is Earned: Churches as Spaces for Health Franshisement.
The virtual event explored the critical importance the church contributes to trust and health factors.
“This is a space to try to connect those that work in theological communities in order to advance health justice, health equity, and quality of life for everyone,” said Kenneth Ngwa, professor of Hebrew Bible and director of the Religion & Global Health Forum. “We want to focus on the role of churches in helping us advance this work by collaborating with the community to improve outcomes.”
“Relationships help to make trust."
Erica Ramirez T’19, director of applied research at Auburn Seminary, examined how crucial trust can be to overcome vaccine hesitancy in the U.S.
“We are a community specifically empowered to add helpful nuances in the interest of promoting vaccine participation—how do we engender trust?” asked Ramirez of the audience of religious practitioners.
Ramirez noted that COVID-19 vaccination campaigns have moved from persuasive to compulsive and coercive in nature. “Campaigns have failed because they are naive in how authority works in American life,” said Ramirez. “We are empowered as a community to look at the situation through specific eyes because we know how authority works in religious life.”
Historically, religious authorities that have flexed power in a coercive way have repeatedly resulted in backlash. “Relationships help to make trust,” said Ramirez.
Charles Millikan T’84, vice president for spiritual care and values integration at The Methodist Hospital, together with Dallas Gingles, associate director of the Houston-Galveston Program at Southern Methodist University, discussed the history of the Houston Methodist Hospital. The faith-based hospital works with churches and congregational groups to build a network to support those in need of assistance outside the hospital. “We are dedicated to keeping our patients safe,” said Millikan.
Kirk A. Johnson T’12, G’16, assistant professor of justice studies at Montclair State University, established that we can build the future by becoming empowered by our history. “Deeply rooted within our Black church’s history is not just civil rights, but also healthcare rights and health inequity,” said Johnson.
According to the CDC, worship is within the social determinants of health. “Being able to trust is being able to go to a particular institution in the context of our church and be taken care of—not just spiritually—but also physically and mentally,” said Johnson.
Merel Visse, director and associate professor of medical & health humanities at Drew, discussed care as a response to an increasing precarity and promoting trust, as opposed to creating trust.
Visse cautioned against labeling those who do not trust their healthcare providers or decide against vaccination. “Labeling others as mistrustful or noncompliant is victimizing these groups,” she said.
“Science is all about evidence, but trust has a complicated relationship with science,” said Visse. “There is no direct correlation between evidence, facts, and trust. Lack of trust emerges when people feel uncertain, whether for medical or social reasons. As leaders, scholars, and citizens we need to think about the particular kinds of care we are endorsing.”
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