Council of Churches to Close Its Missionary Health Office

From Religious News Service

After 55 years of service dedicated to preserving the health of missionaries, the National Council of Churches’ Associated Mission Medical Office is shutting its doors, faced with mounting budgetary problems.

The office, which provides medical evaluations of missionaries before and after overseas service, will cease operations Dec. 31, as voted recently by the council’s executive committee. The office is located at council headquarters here in the Interchurch Center.

However, plans are under way to create a new medical office in Baltimore in conjunction with Johns Hopkins Hospital, which would assume the task of medical reviews for missionaries.

The Associated Mission Medical Office also provides some services to employees at the Interchurch Center, and consideration is being given to establishing a New York office to maintain that service too.


‘Mood of Pessimism’

Dr. John Frame, who has headed the Associated Mission Medical Office since 1972, said several factors--including what he called “the whole mood of pessimism surrounding the NCC"--led to the decision to close the office.

One factor, he said, results from simple arithmetic: As mainline denominations cut back on the size of their missionary forces, there is less need for the medical office and funding becomes scarce.

Another factor, Frame said, was the recent relocation of offices of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to Louisville, Ky., and the planned move of the United Church of Christ from New York to Cleveland.


Frame said attempts were made to provide services to some of the more conservative mission-sending agencies such as the Africa Inland Mission and Sudan Interior Mission. However, the medical office’s affiliation with the liberal NCC scared those agencies off, he said.

Frame estimated that over the past 16 years he has provided services to about one-sixth of all Protestant North American missionaries.