Gary Gunderson to speak at Peace Conference

By Melanie Threlkeld McConnell | Feb 18, 2014

Struggle, violence and brokenness. That’s what the Rev. Gary Gunderson saw at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis, where he was working at the time.

About 3,000 patients a day, “sick, unhealthy people who weren’t living,” he writes in his book, “Leading Causes of Life, Five Fundamentals to Change the Way You Live Your Life.”

What could he do?  Change the “focus of conversation from death to life,” he decided. And so he did, by helping to develop a model, now called the Memphis model, that shows how health care systems and faith-based organizations could work together to help people learn to have healthier and happier lives.

Gunderson, now the vice president of the Division of Faith and Health Ministries at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston Salem, will share that experience at 7 p.m. Friday, March 28, during the 2014 Peace Conference, “Faith, Health, and Peace: Seeking the Basic Right to Good Health for All God’s Children,” at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center.

Conference organizers used Gunderson’s book as a core resource for this year’s international, interfaith conference, which will explore how faith communities can combat disease, violence and poverty, the causes of poor health.

He is one of six primary speakers from around the world who will share their expertise in health and faith.

Gunderson holds a master of divinity from Emory University in Atlanta, a doctorate of ministry from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, and an honorary doctorate of divinity from the Chicago Theological Seminary. He is recognized as an expert in congregations and health.

Gunderson joined Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in 2012, charged with bridging the medical center and the congregations (of any faith) near its patients. “Our Center for Congregational Health has a vision to build partnerships with congregations to improve the health of their members and—most importantly—their neighbors,” he said. “The goal is for us to blend the intelligence of an academic medical center with the grounded intelligence of hundreds of faith partners on the ground.”

Gunderson also holds faculty appointments at the Wake Forest School of Divinity and in Public Health Sciences. He became involved in public health by working with former President Jimmy Carter in Atlanta. For a decade, he directed the Interfaith Health Program at The Carter Center.

To register for the Peace Conference, visit or call 800-222-4930.

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