It's been 30 years since AIDS came into focus and dominated the Metropolitan Community Churches with funerals, grief, and love. We were a young, growing, international church. Even with gay men dying weekly, our membership held strong across the country, and churches were being born across the world.
Many died hard and bitter deaths separated from their beloved partners and friends. Others died surrounded only by partners and friends as families of origin broke off all contact. Everyone deepened their love of life, companionship, and spirituality.
Today, thousands are living long lives with HIV/AIDS, but we are waking up from the lull of daily pills to realize that the battle is not over. An estimated 34 million people around the world are living with HIV/AIDS. Families and communities in sub-Saharan Africa continue to be devastated, and people of color in the United States are affected so profoundly that we must bluntly talk about sex, God, race, and AIDS if we are to even slow the epidemic down.
As a white woman who heads one of the largest international networks established to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people into its churches, I am deeply committed to continuing our healing ministries and our justice ministries that look squarely in the face of race, economics, religion, gender, and so many more factors that affect whether or not we get sick and have access to health care.
As a denomination, we treasure the human diversity in our congregations and are in a thriving relationship with the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, a network of primarily African-American churches that are open to LGBT people, under the leadership of Bishop Yvette Flunder.
Bishop Flunder and I were among more than 400 faith leaders from all over the world who gathered in Washington, D.C., from July 19 to 23 to reflect on how the faith world can expand their ministries and advocacy around HIV/AIDS. Many of us have now joined the 20,000 people who are attending the International AIDS Conference, currently being held in the U.S. for the first time in 22 years.
As a diverse movement in the United States, we can look back to the 1980s, when primarily white gay men successfully mobilized to demand treatment and public education. An army of lesbians cared for their gay brothers as they lay dying. Today, we must admit honestly that, while many live long and productive lives with HIV, men who have sex with men, whether they identify as gay or bisexual or not, are contracting and spreading HIV/AIDS to women at an alarming rate -- particularly in communities of color.
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