Houston TV Anchor Melanie Lawson to Moderate Panel on "Responding to Disease and Poverty" at Annual Conference

Date Posted: 4/16/2012

While poverty and disease are primarily physical matters, the church brings an emotional and spiritual dimension of hope to those in need. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus announced the focus of his earthly ministry this way: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for the Spirit has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to set the oppressed free.”


Consistent with Jesus’ words and our Wesleyan heritage, the United Methodist Church has set the following four focus priorities for the work of the church:

• Developing Principled Christian Leaders

• Congregational Development

• Ministry with the Poor

• Improving Health Globally


New to the Conference agenda this year is a panel of representatives from institutions that have long been supported with leadership and financial resources from the Texas Annual Conference. On Wednesday, June 6 from 2-3 p.m., Conference attendees will explore how these institutions are addressing the denominational priority and Biblical mandate to respond to those suffering from disease and poverty.


Missional Excellence Center Director Diane McGehee serves on the task force planning this special conference event. Explains McGehee, “As institutions related to the United Methodist Church, we have invited six of our partner institutions to share with us 1) how they are ministering to the poor and helping to address global health issues and also 2) how partnering with them can help us to do the same. By linking arms in this manner we will empower congregational development and the development of principled leaders.”


Panelists will share:

• How their institution addresses the challenges of disease and poverty

• Related issues in their arena of ‘public policy’

• Their vision for the institution’s future and

• How the TAC and their institution can be collaborative and connected on behalf of the Kingdom of God.


My heritage is rooted in the fight for social justice so I appreciate the opportunity to explore —with these impactful organizations — new ways to provide service to the poor,” notes Moderator Melanie Lawson. Lawson is the daughter of Dr. Bill Lawson, founder of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, and a champion for social justice.


Meet our Moderator

Award-winning journalist Melanie Lawson is a proud Houstonian, a product of Houston schools and co-anchor for Channel 13 news. She also hosts a weekly Community Affairs program called “Crossroads,” focusing on issues and events around our city. Her favorite stories are those about Houston’s multi-ethnic community - especially stories about children and those who quietly work to make a difference in their lives. Melanie’s involvement in the Houston community is far reaching. Lawson has an undergraduate degree in Politics from Princeton University and a joint degree in Law and Journalism from Columbia University and serves on numerous boards of community organizations.


Meet the panelists: The Methodist Hospital:

Cathy Easter, Ceo/President of Methodist International

The Methodist Hospital System contributes to the mission and vision of the Texas Annual Conference through its own mission of healing and wholeness. The hospital system promotes physical health throughout the world and provides community programs centered around wellness and healing. The institution also supports a spiritual environment of care throughout the system. Panelist Cathy Easter specializes in disease management.


Shalom Health Ministries:

Monica King, Executive Director

Shalom Health Ministry facilitates access to preventative and primary healthcare services and reducing risks of illness – particularly needed in troubled economic times. In the last year, the Clinic provided more than 5000 patient visits and treated more than 750 new patients of whom 90% reported to be living at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.


Wesley Community Center:

Diana Garbis, Executive Director

Providing a vast array of services, the Wesley Community Center includes a Financial Opportunity Center to help clients improve credit and monthly income, and a Food Cooperative that serves Houston’s Fifth Ward. The Center also serves children and seniors and provides a vital safety net to those in crisis related to food and shelter.


Lydia Patterson Institute:

Socorro de Anda, President

Working with underprivileged young men and women on the US-Mexican border is the focus of this organization which just entered its 99th year of ministry. Lydia Patterson brings hope and a place of refuge to students living through daily challenges along the border.


Methodist Mission Home:

Jennifer Sample, Executive Director

For 117 years, the Home has sheltered and empowered God’s children from the vulnerable and confused pregnant teen to the youth with disabilities seeking to live independently. Services relate to adoption, education and support of individuals suffering blindness, deafness or substance abuse.


UM Army:

David Sabom, Executive Director

UM Army provides Christ centered youth work camps that serve people in need, particularly low income, elderly and disabled homeowners throughout  the Texas Annual Conference. In 2011, over 3,300 youth built wheelchair ramps, porches, steps and handrails and repaired homes across Texas and Louisiana and beyond. 


The 2012 panel will take place Wednesday, June 6 from 2-3 p.m.


In 2013, the Panel at Annual Conference will focus on “Forming Principled Leaders” and feature comments from: Lon Morris College, Wiley College, Perkins School of Theology, Lakeview Conference Center, Mount Sequoyah Assembly, and Gulfside Assembly.

“Caring for People & Opening Doors” will be the central topic of presentations in 2014 by representatives of: Methodist Retirement Communities, Methodist Home for Children (Waco), Heartspring Methodist Foundation, Texas Methodist Foundation, Houston International Seafarer’s Center, Texas Methodist College Association.