Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to have highest number of HIV infections in the U.S.
The CDC released new data which shows the HIV epidemic in the U.S. is not only worse than previously thought, but that two communities are bearing most of the burden of new infections: gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) of all races and ethnicities (53% of all new infections) and African American men and women (45% of all new infections). The report said that gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men was the only group that experienced a continual increase in annual HIV infections since 1990. Equally alarming, infections among African Americans were 7 times higher than whites and 3 times higher than Latinos, a group also disproportionately affected.
The CDC reported that an estimated 56,300 people were infected with HIV in 2006 and that this number of annual infections has been close to the annual average since the late 1990's. The CDC had been reporting that there were around 40,000 new infections annually, so this new number represents a 40% increase from the previous reports. The report demonstrates once again that our work is far from over. The time is now to put our faith into action and work together to maximize our efforts to stop HIV and provide the care and support needed by all those affect by and living with this disease.
Link to CDC Fact Sheet:
Californians Build Momentum To Defeat Proposition 8
Every person should have the right to marry the person he or she loves. It's a personal and fundamental freedom now guaranteed by the California Constitution. But this November, Californians will have an opportunity to vote on Proposition 8, a divisive measure that aims to take away this basic freedom from same-gender couples.
Lay leaders and clergy in both UCC Conferences in California are organizing to provide education and help people get involved in efforts to defeat Prop 8. Check their websites for more information on joining their efforts.
Northern California Nevada Conference: www.ncncucc.org
Southern Californis Nevada Conference: www.scncucc.org
Regardless of where you live, the following links lead to information on how you and your friends can help Equality California's "NO on 8" committee defeat Prop 8.
We lift up the efforts and hold in prayer people of California as momentum builds to defeat Prop 8. This ballot initiative seeks to rescind the human-rights victory won when the California Supreme Court ruled on May 15 that all Californians have the right to marry. We also life up the people of Arizona and Florida who are facing similar ballot measures in November.
Pride Prom: Being the Big Love
Practicing "The Big Love" in the face of aggressive, boisterous protesters, several dozen youth and young adults attended The Alameda Pride Prom June 14 at Centennial Hall in downtown Hayward, Calif.
Rev. LeAnn Blackert of San Leandro Community UCC in San Leandro, Calif., and the Rev. Kathryn Schreiber of the United Church of Hayward, UCC joined other local ministers, priests, volunteers and longtime activists in protecting prom-goers from protesters' taunts and tactics.
"There were very caustic and aggressive 'Christians' harassing the kids and volunteers for more than two hours," said Schreiber. "We've never seen this much hate and hostility. But we replied with lots of loving blockage." Protesters used hand-held, electronic megaphones to amplify their almost-non-stop "preaching." Pride participants used whistles and conversed privately to offset the noise as the San Francisco Pride Band performed in the background.
Schreiber speculated that protesters' passions had been heightened by the California Supreme Court's ruling in May to support marriage equality. "One especially confounding sign referred to 'homo sex' being a threat to national security. That left us pondering, 'What on earth was going on in their minds?' "said Schreiber. "They were very physically aggressive, actually getting ON the red carpet to block kids trying to enter the prom."
Protesters aimed some of their verbal venom at clergy members. "I recall one fellow telling me I was 'wicked, wicked . . . leading my flock into hell.' This is new for me, I've only encountered this level of rage in a few Southern anti-war rallies. These protestors also videotaped most of the event, using a camera on a pole to film the crowd – which makes me wonder why they were doing that."
In its 14th year, the Pride Prom was organized by the Lambda Youth Project and Project Eden, and was sponsored by Horizon Services.
For future Pride-related events, Schreiber advises people to anticipate increased anti-gay activity; know that clergy in religious apparel who "preach the gospel with their presence" will be greatly appreciated by those being attacked; ground themselves; and pray for everyone – those who are hurt by what is said and done; those who use their bodies to block hatred, and those who feel called to treat others badly.
Many participants thanked clergy and the supportive religious community – especially the UCC – for years of solidarity, said Schreiber. "One woman came up to LeAnn and I to tell us her son is gay; that this was his first prom, which was why she was volunteering this year. She also told us they were Jewish, went to a progressive synagogue, but that her son had never seen similar Christians. She was pleased he had a chance to see accepting Christians and asked about our churches."
We lift up all participants and supporters of the Pride Prom, as well as the UCC's ONA churches in the area that purchased advertising on the inside front cover and next page of the program guide. "Our church has bought ads for years," says Schreiber, "but this year we joined forces and sent the kids a message from all of us – six UCC churches where everyone is welcome."
Many Stories, One Voice
Focused on addressing personal transformation and the intersections of oppression – by race, class, age, ability, sexual orientation and gender identity – the North American Convocation of Pro-LGBT Christians will convene Sept. 4-7 in New Orleans for "Many Stories, One Voice."
"We are speaking of this time as one of a new Reformation of the Church," says Rebecca Voelkel, Program Director of the Institute for Welcoming Resources, host organization for the event. "We have another moment of decision as the Body of Christ – will we be about exclusion or will we be about God's extravagant welcome? Will we be genuine followers of Jesus' call for a loving God and loving neighbor with evangelical courage? Or will be mired in fear and hatred?"
Archbishop Desmond Tutu will address the conference, and such notably gifted speakers as the UCC's Bishop Yvette Flunder and Dr. Peter Barbosa will be presenting.
"We want to learn how our Pro-LGBT Christian movement can be a movement that genuinely embraces all," says Voelkel, "and then we'll move to planning concrete actions together as Christians. We will have powerful Bible Study, concrete skills-building, action planning and inspirational worship."
As promoted on its website (www.manystoriesonevoice.org), MSOV represents people "from many different contexts. We are Protestant, Catholic, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Anabaptist. We are African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, Latino/a, First Nation People, European American. We are queer, questioning, intersex, lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, heterosexual. We are a diverse mix of theological and political beliefs: progressive, moderate, conservative."
We encourage you to lift up MSOV in its mission to be drawn together into Christian Community. As we come to genuinely know one another, we are invited to challenge the world to these same kinds of just, loving and genuine relationships across all of the above-mentioned lines. The movement is designed to help individuals move from a sense of disempowerment to one of agency, empowerment and action.
Four pre-conference events will be held – a work camp to help rebuild New Orleans; a daylong transgender institute; a daylong anti-racism training; and a half-day LGBT history of New Orleans.
"We hope it will be a catalyzing event that inspires, conveys concrete skills and propels folks to action rooted in their Christian faith," says Voelkel. "We hope to offer both deep reflection and concrete action. We hope to inspire them through preaching and music and art and conversation with one another and through the realization that the Pro-LGBT Christian movement is at its 'time' in history."
New Orleans is an optimal venue because issues of economic justice, race and sexual orientation and gender identity are so stark in New Orleans. "Given Hurricane Katrina and the 35th anniversary of the Upstairs Lounge Fire," says Voelkel, "we hope that working in New Orleans and grounding our experience with folks from New Orleans will help people engage the intersections of the sins of oppression AND the possibilities of shared liberation work."
We encourage people to sign up to volunteer for "Many Stories One Voice" by logging on to www.manystoriesonevoice.org. For more information the Institute for Welcoming Resources, log onto www.welcomingresources.org