A $50,000 Gift, Times Two.
United Methodist Women continues to lead the denomination when it comes to prophetic acts of solidarity with the marginalized, with women and children being their primary missional focus. Included in that list are LGBTQ teenagers and young women who struggle with their sexual orientation, especially in a United Methodist denomination that has demonized and demoralized them for over 47 years.
So it is with joy that I read the press release this week from United Methodist Women.
United Methodist Women, the largest denominational, lay women of faith organization in the world, today announced it has awarded two grants for work to thwart suicide among LGBTQ youth. The organization committed to the needs of women, children and youth awarded two $50,000 grants to The Trevor Foundation and the Tyler Clementi Foundation for their work to prevent LGBTQ youth suicide.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, resulting in approximately 4,600 lives lost each year. Another 157,000 young people are injured during suicide attempts each year. LGBTQ youth are three to six time more likely to attempt suicide than other youth.
“When we witness a problem, our faith compels us to act,” said Shannon Priddy, president of the United Methodist Women board of directors. “These grants are about supporting young people. Given that LGBTQ youth have an increased risk of being bullied in school and online, and since bullying increases the risk of depression and suicide among youth, we have a responsibility and the great honor of doing as much as we can to create environments that are safe and inclusive for LGBTQ youth, and to support organizations who are doing the same.”
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people under 25, and the Tyler Clementi Foundation’s mission is to end online and offline bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities.
It shouldn’t be newsworthy that a United Methodist entity has given funds to support groups to stop teen and young adult suicides. It shouldn’t be newsworthy that a women’s mission organization is continuing its mission of supporting vulnerable women and children.
But it is newsworthy. Because The United Methodist Church has a long history of silence on LGBTQ programs and forbidding funding of anything that remotely offers affirmation and comfort to LGBTQ children. And learning that history brings much more weight to this United Methodist Women’s action—and a call for others to do the same.
History of The UMC Denying Ministry to LGBTQ persons
Barely a year after The United Methodist Church was created, the relationship between money and affirmation of LGBTQ persons came to the forefront with opposition to a student-edited magazine that affirmed LGBTQ persons. From Jane Ellen Nickell’s book “We Shall Not Be Moved: Methodists debate Race, Gender, and Sexuality” chapter 4.
“In 1969, motive, the UMC’s student magazine, created controversy when it published an issue on women’s rights that included a discussion of lesbianism. United Methodist congregations and individuals threatened to withhold their apportionment dollars, and the denomination’s Board of Education, which published the magazine, withdrew its support. Without institutional funding, motive ceased publication, devoting its final two issues to gay rights.”
While the original language against LGBTQ persons came in 1972, a ban on denominational financing anything remotely affirming of LGBTQ persons came in 1976. It had three components:
- Ordered the Council on Finance and Administration to “ensure that no board, agency, committee, commission, or council shall give United Methodist funds to any ‘gay’ caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality.”
- Mandated “the use of resources and funds by boards and agencies only in support of programs consistent with the Social Principles of the Church.”
- Prohibited “funds for projects favoring homosexual practices.”
The next General Conference in 1980 entertained discussion on prohibitions of gays and lesbians from being employed in church offices, and from using church spaces. These prohibitions were eventually voted down, but they speak to the desire of some to apply the funding ban to local church decisions.
The 2004 General Conference expanded the funding restrictions related to groups that promote the acceptance of homosexuality. Prior to 2004, these restrictions applied only to the national General Conference on Finance and Administration. However, following a complaint filed with the Judicial Council relating to annual conference funding for a ministry* with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in the New England Annual Conference (JC 491), the 2004 General Conference extended the prohibition to include annual conference councils on finance and administration. (*Full disclosure: I was a member of Cambridge Welcoming Ministries at this time.) The funding restriction would ultimately read:
“To ensure that no annual conference board, agency, committee, commission, or council shall give United Methodist funds to any gay caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality. The council shall have the right to stop such expenditures. This restriction shall not limit the Church’s ministry in response to the HIV epidemic, nor shall it preclude funding for dialogs or educational events where the Church’s official position is fairly and equally represented.”
Thus in Decisions 1081 and 1084, the Judicial Council ruled that the annual conference Councils on Finance and Administration (CF&A) are responsible for ensuring that no groups that promote the acceptance of homosexuality receive conference funding.
Finally in 2008, General Conference delegates voted to add an additional restriction for funds used for programs that would “violate the expressed commitment of The United Methodist Church ‘not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends.’” So they wouldn’t fund programs that directly affirm or directly deny the existence of LGBTQ persons.
(Editor’s note: sections of the above have been adapted from T.L. Steinwert’s 2009 Dissertation “Homosexuality and the United Methodist Church: An Ecclesiological Dilemma” at Boston University School of Theology).
Some Results of the Funding Ban
The effects of the funding ban were felt most strongly in educational and direct services areas. The Ecumenical Campus Ministry at Ohio Northern University had its United Methodist funding cut because of involvement with the LGBTQ community. In 2005, the University Of Puget Sound’s UMeth campus ministry was brought up for judicial review because of their welcoming statement. It seems campus ministries were the most scrutinized and vulnerable to anyone with an anti-gay axe to grind. And curriculum development always had to tiptoe around anything gay-related.
Most heinously, the funding ban on AIDS support and “in response to the AIDS epidemic” was not lifted until 1988, after countless numbers of United Methodists had died without
any support or care substantial support from General Conference and The United Methodist Church (Editor’s note: see comments for more nuance to this time). At the end of 1987, the World Health Organization estimated 7-10 million people worldwide were HIV+. Up until that time, many in the upper echelons of United Methodism had to be silent or avoid offering care out of fear of losing their funding, and after that change, even local organizing efforts continued to be under attack. Examples include the HIV/AIDS Ministry in West Ohio in 1990 which ultimately prevailed over attempts to shut down its ministry to the HIV/AIDS community, and a RAIN team of meals-on-wheels for AIDS patients in Oklahoma City which continued for a time despite the ban.
In summary, Rev. Dr. T.L. Steinwert reflects in her 2009 dissertation (page 52):
The 1976 prohibition on funding initiated a movement toward silencing advocates for the full inclusion of homosexual persons. With the threat of denial of funds, this legislation censured those in local churches, annual conferences, seminaries and national church agencies who sought to talk about homosexuality from an affirming perspective. Citing incidents at St. Paul School of Theology, the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Reporter and the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women…this prohibition on funding “effectively stopped any real dialogue on homosexuality by silencing one side of the debate.” In each case, any discussion of homosexuality that strayed from a strict condemnation of the practice was censured through local church protests and actions taken by General Boards and Agencies.
United Methodist actions and inaction has contributed to this culture of fear and self-loathing by LGBTQ persons. We have been complicit and in some cases outright culpable of the harm and death.
While opponents of LGBTQ persons hide behind rhetoric and rationales, the reality is that United Methodist polity and funding bans have made us part of the reason organizations like the Trevor Project need to exist in the first place.
Today’s gift from United Methodist Women to the Trevor Project and the Tyler Clementi Foundation helps begin to redeem decades of neglect of an at-risk population (which our own church has helped put at risk). The denomination has made even saving lives a risky move.
While it is in line with the Discipline in the way it was given and awarded, the renewal groups love to jump on anything UMW-related, especially when UMW takes tangible, bold, and faithful action. So I offer the above history to provide context of what the funding ban actually caused so you can see what tradition the complainants live into.
Today, there are places where the funding ban is an iron gate, and there are places where we can see the cracks. For example, a local church’s ministry had a grant denied by Discipleship Ministries because they had a statement of inclusion in their description. They removed it and it was affirmed the next year. But this year the Missouri Annual Conference approved funding a “new ministry in new places” effort specifically for and with LGBTQ persons. A church in Arkansas is renting one of its buildings to an LGBTQ youth shelter. The Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference has a staff person for LGBTQ ministries, which had to have a unique funding structure, and several annual conferences employ LGBTQ persons in annual conference positions. So there is still a patchwork effect locally and at the regional level even though the global structures continue to be banned from active ministry for and with LGBTQ persons.
My hope is that this gift inspires other agencies and annual conferences and local churches to begin to redeem the radio silence The United Methodist Church has had for over 40 years, and commit more resources to saving the lives of vulnerable LGBTQ+ persons—whose vulnerability was created by the polity and practices of The United Methodist Church in the first place.
It’s the least we can do—and if you don’t like it, as we say in the Bible Belt, bless your heart.
Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing this post on social media.
Errata as of July 8, 2019:
- Erroneously ascribed a denied grant to “Global Missions” when the agency was actually Discipleship Ministries. There isn’t even a “Global Missions” agency…sigh. Corrected.)
- Gave more nuance to the AIDS paragraph based on comments below
Thanks for posting the historical context for the $50,000 grants from United Methodist Women to the Trevor Project and the Tyler Clementi Foundation. I am very appreciative of the long standing justice work of United Methodist Women and read about these two grants with a strong sense of satisfaction!
Very proud of the UMW! It gives me a glimmer of hope about the denomination.
UMW continues to do what the Lord requires.
Standing with you, UMW! I appreciate it all the more now that I’ve read the history.
Nancy A Carter
I’d like to correct your statement, “Most heinously, the funding ban on AIDS support and “in response to the AIDS epidemic” was not lifted until 1988, after countless numbers of United Methodists had died without any support or care from General Conference and The United Methodist Church.” There was never a funding ban on AIDS support. The first cases of AIDS were reported in 1981. My friend Charles Bergner, who died in December 1983, a United Methodist, was one of the first 1000 cases of AIDS in the United States. His story was first reported in the United Methodist Reporter. I also shared my story about him many times in the early years of AIDS and I see it is still online: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/42940151/jerry-charles-bergner
Response to AIDS in The United Methodist Church was early. Cathie Lyons, then of Health & Welfare Ministries of the General Board of Global Ministires was a leader. In terms of timing of the quadrennium, 1988 was the earliest resolution but work began earlier than that not only in the UMC but the National Council of Churches under Chris Cowap’s leadership. A number of us United Methodists were on it. My first published story on AIDS ministry appeared in the January 1985 issue of New World Outlook magazine. It was written earlier than that, of course. For more information and links see, for example, https://web.archive.org/web/20010413141227/http://gbgm-umc.org/programs/hiv/covenant.html in the “Wayback matchine.”
That’s helpful! Thanks Nancy for your longtime advocacy and reporting. A valuable ministry!
Now that you have been educated, it seems like you would delete the accusations, Jeremy.
The paragraph has been updated to reflect the diversity of emails received and comments made.
Hi Nancy, I’ve updated the paragraph. A few emailed comments dispute your version of the history, so I changed “without any support or care” to “without substantial support.” I appreciate your stories and I’ve changed it to reflect the variety of responses to life in the UMC at that time.
Nancy A Carter
Hi Jeremy, thanks for the changes and so now I address “Most heinously, the funding ban on AIDS support and “in response to the AIDS epidemic” was not lifted until 1988, after countless numbers of United Methodists had died…” There never was a funding ban on AIDS support. The funding ban added to the BOD in 1976 prevented NATIONAL United Methodist funds (read funding from national agencies) going for ADVOCACY for LGBT people (“homosexuals” and “homosexuality” would have been the words) and also banned NATIONAL funds to be given to groups advocating the acceptance of “homosexuality.” This was put in place for the precise reason to rein in some of the work of the Board of Discipleship, Board of Church and Society, and Board of Global Ministries. There actually was not a ban on “ministry” and so there was a line to walk. As I noted earlier national UM funds were going to AIDS ministry very early on. The United Methodist National Consultation on AIDS Ministries happened in November 1987 but work began earlier than that. Yes, there were issues, rampant fear of HIV/AIDS (or GRID as it was called when we were first involved), etc. The 1988 resolution, which originated from the General Board of Global Ministries begins with a confession. https://web.archive.org/web/20010223050407/http://gbgm-umc.org/mission/resolutions/HEALAIDS.html
I think it is inaccurate and misleading to use the word “heinously” — United Methodist work was happening both locally and nationally. It took until the 1988 conference to pass a resolution. 1984 would have been too early for a formal resolution as I implied with my story about Charles Bergner, who was a support staff person on the Board of Global Ministries. He was one of the first 1000 cases. When he was diagnosed, we were not even certain how HIV was transmitted through sexual transmission was presumed to be one way. I believe, for clarification for the broader church, a notation was added in 1988 to the funding ban that it was not to be interpreted to forbid AIDS ministries.
Nancy A Carter
To add balance, the 1988 resolution begins with a confession and then moves to “celebration” to acknowledge work being done. It says, “We celebrate the leadership of local churches and annual conferences which have begun ministries in response to AIDS; the guidance provided during the 1984-88 quadrennium by the General Boards of Global Ministries, Church and Society, and Discipleship.” And it also goes to my point of national funds were being used for AIDS ministry before 1988. And, obviously, local and conference funds were used to. I remember there was a challenge in NY Annual Conference trying to prevent conference money from going to the newly formed AIDS Task Force and Bishop C. Dale White made it clear we were not using “National” funds. I do not remember whether or not there was further interpretation… ie that this was ministry not advocacy, that not all people with HIV were gay, etc. Not all Annual Conferences had friendly bishops.
I greatly appreciate the backstory. It’s sometimes hard to remember the times without viewing it through a present day lens [thus loaded terms like ‘heinously’ pop up], and I’m thankful for your efforts in helping us to understand the complicated history here.
It is good to celebrate this but some more history. This comes very, very late for United Methodist Women. General Conference passed legislation directing United Methodist Women to address and create resources for LGBT youth at risk of suicide sometime around 2000, maybe earlier. (Nancy Carter, maybe you know the exact year. I think the same thing was passed at two general conference but that might not be accurate.) When some of us who were staff of the then Women’s Division proposed ways to live into this legislation, we were told to be quiet. Nothing would be done. The prohibition on spending money to “promote” homosexuality was quoted by higher ups. I personally did a study leave project researching bullying of young boys perceived as gay. I was directed to bury the results of my four months of research and writing. (A highlight of that research was meeting with gay youth in Houston, Texas, who were part of a program supported by United Methodist Deaconess Joanne Reich. While UMW may be ahead of the rest of UMC in beginning to do justice with LGBT members, it was very, very slow to take this initial step. In terms of the church response to HIV-AIDS, I can tell you there were some progressive, compassionate pastors ministering to those with the disease in Northern Illinois Conference where I was communications coordinator in the early 1980s. I did a series of articles on this work for the conference newspaper with one such pastor, Judith Kelsey-Powell. With her help, I interviewed a father who was dying of AIDS and his daughter. His wife had already died of AIDS. I learned later my interview was the first time the father and daughter discussed her anger at him for transmitting HIV to her mother. Often it is local pastors, workers of the diaconia and other laity who lead the church in the right direction. Judith did this in northern Illinois and Joanne did this ibn Houston. I have always felt blessed to call both colleague and friend. I am proud to have used the conference newspaper to get the story out.
Nancy A Carter
Dana, I don’t have easy access to some of my historical materials now but, yes, the suicide prevention legislation was early. It could have been 1996. The proposal actually originated from the then Troy Annual Conference. It was authored primarily by Nancy J. Law.
It’s amazing how Methodist history gets revised by people who weren’t there ’cause they were not yet born. (Including you, Jeremy!)
‘motive’ magazine (with the lower case ‘m’) was NOT “sudent-edited.” Its editors for the Methodist Board of Education included the respected Jameson Jones (who notably fathered Bishop Scott Jameson Jones and his brother Duke Divinity dean L. Gregory Jones–prompting “many sighs too deep for words” if you can intuit what I mean!) and the still-living B.J. Stiles, who was honored in 2015 by BUST, where the ‘motive’ digital archive is housed. http://www.bu.edu/cgcm/research-associates/visitingresearchers/b-j-stiles/
Nancy A Carter
I too celebrate the grant from United Methodist Women. The former Women’s Division now United Methodist Women have had a long journey in regard to LGBT people. I8888 have donated in the past to the Trevor Project and have friends who are/have been on its board.
You are correct that the funding ban of 1976 has done damage as it was intended to do by its authors, who wanted to rein in the national agencies and other United Methodist individuals and organizations that were moving forward with full inclusivity. You are incorrect that the paragraph blocked funding for AIDS ministry, advocacy and education before 1988. In fact, what we did between 1988 and 2000 was stellar. Here is a timeline featuring information about the United Methodist and ecumenical responses through the year 2000 https://web.archive.org/web/20060223145119fw_/http://gbgm-umc.org/health/aids/timeline.stm
In this post, I provide further documentation of the United Methodist response funded by national funds prior to 1988. For the USA AIDS statistics, I rely upon AMFAR’s timeline at https://www.amfar.org/thirty-years-of-hiv/aids-snapshots-of-an-epidemic/
Another important timeline is
This is not to deny that some misused the funding ban adopted in 1976 to block or try to block funding of AIDS ministries. The reason that the statement about AIDS was added in 1988 to the section on funding was not to “lift the ban” but to CLARIFY that advocacy, ministry, and education about HIV/AIDS and people with AIDS was not to be considered advocacy for LGBT people. One of the errors health officials made early on was to call the new immune disorder GRID – Gay-related immune disorder… It helped put into people’s minds that it was a disease of “Gays.” One of the biggest theological issues we were dealing with then was so many were claiming that AIDS was God’s punishment of gay people. The work Global Ministries did, the materials we produced, the statements we made brought immeasurable comfort to people with AIDS and their families.
SOME OF THE HISTORY OF AIDS AND THE CHURCH
The earliest responses were in Annual Conferences, of course: In 1983 a few passed resolutions on AIDS. “Rocky Mountain and California-Nevada were the first to speak out. In 1983, the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference voted to “commit ourselves to greater understanding of AIDS, demonstrating through prayer and action, each in our own way, a ministry of caring concern to the victims of the new deadly disease.” … In 1984, the North Georgia and New York annual conferences adopted resolutions on AIDS. North Georgia called for “a ministry of love and comfort and reconciliation and salvation witness.” New York resolved that the conference, ‘its organizations and local churches seek our ways it can be in ministry with people with AIDS, their families, and friends.’ ” ( From “Growing in Compassion” by Nancy A. Carter New World Outlook, January 1985– see also the UM timeline)
1984 was still very early in the crisis. Folk were dying quickly after diagnosis. It was a scary time. The 1983 U.S. year- statistics were: 2,807 reported; 2,118 deaths. In May 1984, General Conference did not adopt any resolutions It did, however, refer a petition from the California-Nevada Annual Conference to the General Board of Church and Society. https://web.archive.org/web/20060223145119fw_/http://gbgm-umc.org/health/aids/timeline.stm
1984 marked the first time the HIV antivirus was isolated. 1984 was also the first time the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) in New York City published its first safer sex guidelines. People, even those concerned like GMHC, were trying to just get a hold of what was happening and what should be done. http://www.gmhc.org/about-us/gmhchivaids-timeline
Though early in the health crisis, The United Methodist Church at national agency level was moving in an affirmative direction. 1984 marked a concerted effort to response to the HIV/AIDS crisis.
“At its annual meeting in October, 1984 the Health and Welfare Ministries Program Department of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church adopted a position paper on AIDS and the Compassionate Ministry of the Church, dealing with such areas as research and health education, local church ministries, and concern for human and civil rights. Staff of the department was asked to get involved in four areas:
* monitoring and making available information about the level of funding to develop a vaccine against AIDS and to carry out a program of public health education.
* preparing educational and ministry resources to assist congregations.
* investigating ways to reduce the widespread ignorance and fear that lead to violations of civil rights of persons with AIDS.
* consulting with annual conferences, health and welfare institutions, and others in order to determine ways in which the human and civil rights of AIDS patients are jeopardized and advising steps to remedy this.” (From “Growing in Compassion” by Nancy A. Carter New World Outlook, January 1985)
The US year-end statistics for 1984 were 7,239 cases of AIDS reported; 5,596 deaths. NOTE: there was no Internet or social media then. When we received by US mail these statistics, it could be as late as mid-year in the next year. First, the CDC had to compile them, then print them, then mail them.
1986: NATIONAL AIDS CONSULTATION, WORK WITH SURGEON GENERAL C. EVERETT KOOP AND MUCH MORE
In February, the General Board of Discipleship adopted a statement “Ministry in the Midst of the AIDS Epidemic,” which said in part: “We applaud those local United Methodist churches who have already undertaken such ministries on our behalf. We also confess that we as a total church have not always responded lovingly in the midst of this epidemic in part because of deeply held fears and prejudices. We ask God’s forgiveness in this regard.” In April, The General Board of Global Ministries adopted an extensive paper, “Statement on the Church as a Healing Community and the AIDS Crisis.” It included theological background, facts about AIDS, statistics, and several recommendations. In September, the Board of Church and Society concurred with it. https://web.archive.org/web/20060223145119fw_/http://gbgm-umc.org/health/aids/timeline.stm
Just the other day, I found the materials for the groundbreaking National United Methodist Consultation on AIDS, which was held November 12-15, 1986 in San Francisco. The box was sitting right in the open for me to see, in a room ruled by chaos. I took that as a sign to write again in response to your blog. Over 400 people, including me, attended that consultation, which was planned jointly by the Boards of Global Ministries, Discipleship, and Church and Society. Cathie Lyons, then assistant general secretary of the Health and Welfare Ministries Department of Global Ministries directed the consultation. Bishop Leontine TC Kelly welcomed us and inspired us. In fact, she reached out to bring the convocation there.
I mentioned in an earlier post that the National Council of Churches AIDS Task Force, which was created in January 1986. I was a member of it. Cathie and Chris Cowap (NCCC) were the leaders. In June, a delegation from the NCCC task force, including Cathie Lyons, met, at his invitation, with the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop, for 80 minutes. in July 1986 it sent him a seven-page document highlighting our concerns about the needs for “effective, comprehensive, coordinated community-based social and health human services” and seven other concerns that I won’t list here due to space. The seventh point was for the protection of human and civil rights. (I am looking at the document right now). Later in 1986, the Surgeon General sent an AIDS education booklet to EVERY HOUSEHOLD in the United States. At the end of the document, contact information for the NCCC AIDS Task Force is listed. This simple listing was a tremendous Christian witness given the “AIDS is God’s judgment on gays” tenor of the times … https://www.hiv.gov/blog/in-memoriam-c-everett-koop (there is a link to the PDF on that web page).
So 1986 was a milestone year for United Methodist action in regard to AIDS ministry. Obviously, something like the consultation took a lot of work and planning and United Methodist national dollars. For sure, this work was not easy given the climate of the times. Such work could and did come at a personal and professional cost for the courageous individuals who took on this work at local, conference, and national levels of The United Methodist Church.
The 1986 AIDS consultation brought people together mostly from around the United States, helped to enable networking, and gave a basis for the 1988 resolution on AIDS that was adopted by General Conference.
U.S. YEAR-END STATISTICS for 1986: 28,712 cases of AIDS reported to date, 24,559 deaths
1988 GENERAL CONFERENCE RESOLUTION LAUNCHES INCREASED RESPONSE INTO THE 1990s AND BEYOND
The resolution that General Conference adopted in 1988 “AIDS and the Healing Ministry of the Church” originated from the Board of Global Ministries and, as I recall, was endorsed by the boards of Church and Society and Discipleship.
It became the basis of expanded AIDS ministry, education, and advocacy in The United Methodist Church. An official interagency AIDS task force was initiated.
The resolution also became the basis of a new program originating from Global Ministries called “A Covenant to Care.” Local churches were invited to join the network. A Covenant to Care congregation publicly declared that people with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones are welcome in all facets of the church’s life, leadership and ministry. https://web.archive.org/web/20051018203724/http://gbgm-umc.org/programs/hiv/covenant.stm
1989 marked the launch of “A Covenant to Care” including a very important series of documents “AIDS Focus Papers.” Again, since there was no Internet or social media, these papers were mailed free of charge to any individual or organization who requested them. Ten papers were published that year: They are listed here: https://web.archive.org/web/20060223145119fw_/http://gbgm-umc.org/health/aids/timeline.stm Many of these papers are still online with the Wayback Machine. For example,
“Living With AIDS: A Personal Story” by Terry Boyd
AID Caregiving (multiple authors)
In 1990, five more Focus Papers were published (and there were other materials I have not listed). Also about forty people participated in a conference “AIDS and the Role of the Church” in Kinshasa, Zaire. The conference, conducted entirely in French, was a cooperative effort between The United Methodist Church of Zaire and Health and Welfare Ministries, GBGM. In addition to focusing on care for persons and families living with AIDS, the participants discussed the church’s role in prevention and education.
In 1992, GBGM and the Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches in Latin America (CIEMAL) held two major consultations on HIV/AIDS ministries in São Paulo and Recife, Brazil.
1993 saw the creation of ANIN, the Council of NATIONAL RELIGIOUS AIDS NETWORKS, upper/lower case intentional. Read about it on https://web.archive.org/web/20060223145119fw_/http://gbgm-umc.org/health/aids/timeline.stm Of course, there was United Methodist participation and leadership.
On June 10, 1993, CAM (Computerized AIDS Ministries) a ground-breaking free dial-up electronic bulletin board service (BBS) was launched. Again, this was before electronic communications as we know them today. Prodigy, Compuserve, and AOL (newly renamed from Quantum) were around. I was the sysop for this BBS. When Cathie asked me to come on as a consultant to run it, she said to me, “You know the church, you know about GBGM, you know about AIDS ministry, … you can learn the rest.” Here is an article “Welcoming Angels” about CAM that was published in New World Outlook and describes the incredible ministry it had for a short period of time (a few years) until affordable online communications became more accessible to people with AIDS and their families https://web.archive.org/web/20060205075056/http://gbgm-umc.org/cam/camangel.html
One secular reporter dubbed us “The Electronic Church on the Information Super Highway.”
I am going to stop here. The links I have provided give more information about United Methodist response to the AIDS crisis. I have only scratched a little deeper than the surface.
I’m late to this party, but I wish to confirm what Nancy Carter says here. For a decade, 1988-98, I was an associate editor at the United Methodist Reporter newspaper, and covering the UMC’s response to AIDS was part of my portfolio. I reported on ANIN, focused on United Methodist leadership and participation, and on CAM on more than one occasion.
I also concur with her objection to the word “heinous” regarding the UMC’s response to AIDS. Despite the ban on agencies using general church funds to promote homosexuality, the General Board of Global Ministries was successful in directing some of its attention to health ministries for people with AIDS. Nancy has given more than sufficient evidence that the need was not minimized to the point of being “heinous.” As an editorial colleague of Jeremy Smith, I would also respectfully request that the word “heinous” be removed. I’d also like Jeremy’s permission to remove it from the United Methodist Insight reprint of this column.
Nancy A Carter
Thanks for the support, Cynthia. Today, as I have reviewed my personal archives, I found the February 1986 issue of Engage / Social Action magazine published by our UM Board of Church and Society. I had incorrectly remembered that they published an article on AIDS early on. It was more than that. An entire issue was devoted to “The Church in the Midst of the AIDS Epidemic.” This publication is another example of pre-1988 response by United Methodist agencies and illustrates there was no ban on responding to this crisis. Included in it were the following articles (and more): “Basic Information on AIDS” by Mervyn F. Silverman (pp. 5-11), “Becoming the New Testament Church to Serve These ‘New Lepers'” by Robert W. Lyon (pp. 12-17), “The AIDS Hysteria: Threat to Justice, Civil Rights” by Morris L. Floyd (pp 18-23), “To Conquer the Disease, To Continue to Live: Some Writings of Michael Collins, 1947-1984” (Michael was an out gay man who was one of the founders of Affirmation. The excerpts were used with the permission of Affirmation, pp. 24-27), “Last May Jim Died of AIDS” by Jeannie Johnson (pp. 28-30), “Facing the AIDS Epidemic: Will Fear or Faith Prevail?” by Wendy Tate (pp. 31-36), “In Response to AIDS: A Call to Ministry” by Nancy A. Carter (pp. 37-40), “Aid for Persons With AIDS” by David James Randolph (pp. 41-43). This issue of e/sa provided a wealth much needed to United Methodist churches and supplemented the AIDS education and ministry packet that the NCCC AIDS Taskforce produced the year before (or perhaps the same year 1986).