On Becoming an HIV/AIDS Competent Church and Church Leader
Remembrance, Repentance, Responsibility
The Office of Public Witness and the Presbyterian AIDS Network are partnering with Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary for a conference on creating HIV/AIDS competent churches and church leaders. The conference meets in the days leading up to World AIDS Day, Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, 2012 in Atlanta, GA.
“Today, worldwide, there are 33 million people living with AIDS, 2.5 million of whom are children; globally 25 million people have died due to AIDS-related complications. The HIV infection and AIDS have affected and infected persons of every age, sex, marital status, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, ethnic, and racial group throughout the world; no demographic has remained untouched. This enormous suffering cries out again for compassionate action and prophetic justice” (1).
The conference will be part of a certificate program offered by Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary that grounds participants in the fundamentals of both HIV/AIDS and practical theology. Participants in the program will be equipped to provide prophetic witness and compassionate action that facilitates both spiritual and social change.
At the 220th General Assembly, Rev. Emily Rose Proctor and Rev. Ruth Hamilton drafted a commissioner’s resolution commending the historically African American seminary Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary (JCSTS) in Atlanta for their new certification program designed to equip church leaders and congregations to be HIV competent.
Becoming an HIV and AIDS Competent Church
The 219th General Assembly (2010) approved the report Becoming an HIV and AIDS Competent Church: Prophetic Witness and Compassionate Action.
This report presents the PC(USA) with a concise but comprehensive look at HIV and AIDS thirty years after it made its first blip on our epidemiological radar screens. We begin with an overview of the development of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the United States and globally and the church’s response. From this overview, we report on the present context of the global pandemic as it appears in the U.S. and other regions of the world. We turn to Scripture for comfort, guidance, hope, and a prophetic vision of how to respond most faithfully. We then examine the marginalizing social forces that foster the spread of HIV: poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, stigma, and discrimination. We see how cultural and religious beliefs can contribute to the greater vulnerability of some groups, extending the power of this pandemic. As we journey toward examining the dynamics of unequal social power, we lift up and highlight populations that have been historically underreported or mis-categorized. This leads us to a social analysis and an assessment of our current situation where we address the implications of the dynamics of these powers and principalities for us as a church, nation, and world. Finally, we return to our theme and goal: that the PC(USA) become an HIV and AIDS competent denomination defined by the merging of compassionate care, so well developed in current church policies and resources, and prophetic witness, now focused on the dynamics of unequal power nationally and globally, with the recognition that attention to both is necessary to stop the tragedy of this pandemic.
This report and other resources are available in MLP’s HIV/AIDS resources area.
(1) Becoming an HIV and AIDS Competent Church: Prophetic Witness and Compassionate Action, Advisory Commission on Social Witness Policy, Presbyterian Mission Agency.