In 2003, a small group of healthcare leaders gathered in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in conjunction with Mennonite World Conference General Assembly to discuss the possibility of developing a Global Anabaptist Health Network. The focus was on Anabaptist related health institutions. The results of this gathering remained without long term impact due to a lack of institutional ownership.
In July 2015, another gathering was organized in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, still in conjunction with MWC World Assembly. A couple of major differences presented themselves from the 2003 meeting and a follow up meeting in Paraguay in 2009. First, the gathering was organized and coordinated by Mennonite Health Services on behalf of and with the endorsement of MWC and was called a “Global Health Leaders Summit.” It was by invitation only, to include top leaders and board members of hospitals, health clinics, senior care, community health, mental health, and developmental disability organizations, and expressly included healthcare leaders from all regions. The theme was “Stronger Together: Creating a Global Network of Anabaptist Healthcare Leaders.” A formal proposal to form such a network was presented by an ad hoc committee and endorsed by the one hundred or so participants in that summit. The outcome of the summit was a goal to form a network that would also include individual Anabaptist health professionals, not just healthcare institutions. And it was clearly intended to encompass health in a very broad context, not just healthcare institutions.
Clearly there was a strong interest among the participants to lean into some new kinds of connections. Participants shared a deep commitment to engaging in health ministries in a way that is shaped by an Anabaptist Christian perspective and the shared values and convictions of the Mennonite World Conference. A coordinating group representing the diversity of Mennonite World Conference was suggested to take the energy and ideas generated through the Summit and advance the effort over the next three years, so the Global Anabaptist Health Network Task Force was formed in partnership with MWC (read more).
GAHN’s vision and mission statements were adopted in the following months through interactions and communications with representatives from fourteen countries. The benefits of membership emerged. Interest continues to develop around a healthcare network that brings real value and benefits to network members and the populations they serve. All of this is done through the unique lens of the Anabaptist perspective and contribution on various health topics and issues. A strong foundation has been built for the development and design of GAHN with the potential for future changes based on member needs and preferences.