In 1987, the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries (UCBHM), the UCC Office for Church in Society (OCIS) and the UCC Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (CHHSM) collaborated with one another to form UCAN, a loosely formed network within the UCC.
In 1993, Affirming Persons, Saving Lives (APSL) was created, a groundbreaking curriculum for AIDS awareness and prevention education. In that same year, UCAN received the National AIDS Interfaith Network's Special Award for Outstanding Curriculum Development for APSL.
In 2005 UCAN's recommitmented to promote awareness and offer technical assistance to racial/ethnic minority constituencies throughout the country, who are now among the highest risk group for HIV transmission.
UCAN Inc. acquired its own IRS 501(c)(3) status in 2008, in order to more effectively and efficiently carry out its mission, yet also maintain strong service ties to UCC's global community.
The Founding of UCAN
In January 1989, the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries (UCBHM), the UCC Office for Church in Society (OCIS) and the UCC Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (CHHSM) co-sponsored a UCC AIDS Ministry Consultation attended by 33 UCC clergy and lay members with extensive, firsthand experience in HIV and AIDS ministry. The group included persons with HIV and AIDS, family members, pastors, counselors, AIDS service providers, educators and chaplains with rural, suburban and urban perspectives. The Consultation was initiated under the inspired leadership of the Rev. Dr. William R. "Bill" Johnson, UCBHM Secretary for AIDS Programs and Ministries Coordination.
A Consultation report entitled, AIDS, Where We Live, set forth the Consultation's recommendations to the whole church and was sent to UCC Executives and Conference Ministers. One thousand copies of the report were also distributed at the UCC's 17th General Synod meeting in Fort Worth, Texas (June 1989).
The other important outcome from the Consultation was the creation of the United Church of Christ AIDS/HIV Network (UCAN), which participants in the Consultation had covenanted together to do. An Ad Hoc Leadership Team was formed whose primary task was to review the report of the Consultation and oversee UCAN preparations for GS17, including preparation of two General Synod resolutions called for by the Consultation.
UCAN Begins Its Work
The Ad Hoc Leadership Team wrote and submitted two resolutions which were adopted by General Synod 17 (GS17). One resolution called for a UCC AIDS discrimination audit and endorsement and the other called for the enactment of the Ten Principles for the Workplace. In addition to the resolutions, UCAN members raised HIV/AIDS concerns during the synod "Speak outs", advocated continued commitment to the UCBHM AIDS Program, made and hung a banner in the Synod arena declaring "The Body of Christ is Living With AIDS" and made available UCC AIDS Memorial Panels on which delegates and visitors were invited to inscribe the names of loved ones living with HIV/AIDS or in memory of those who had died. UCAN members also engaged in many hours of pastoral and educational conversations with GS17 delegates and visitors.
In his closing remarks, retiring UCC President Avery D. Post observed that although the two resolutions were the only AIDS-related items on the Synod agenda, AIDS was clearly the most important issue at GS17. UCAN's consciousness raising efforts were also reflected in the synod's spontaneous decision to institute a one-day blood drive among delegates and visitors to replenish the blood supply in Fort Worth which had reached dangerously low levels because local citizens feared they would contract AIDS by giving blood.
UCAN Develops a Plan
In September 1989, a new Ad Hoc UCAN Leadership Team was constituted to design and implement a UCAN development plan. The Development Plan identified all members of the United Church of Christ as its constituents under the reasoning that, whether conscious of it or not, all are affected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) pandemic. The plan said,
While UCC members with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones are most directly affected, many UCC members are involved in HIV/AIDS care-giving, counseling, education, service provision and public policy advocacy. Those UCC members whose only awareness of HIV/AIDS comes from the public media have been affected by that awareness. As the pandemic continues, United Church members who think they are not affected will become aware of countless ways the HIV/AIDS pandemic is having an impact on their lives as citizens and as members of the Body of Christ called to respond to the imperatives of the Gospel. UCAN, therefore, seeks to unite in covenant:
- People living with HIV/AIDS
- Families and Friends
- Lay and Pastoral Caregivers
- Health Care and Social Service Providers
- Educators, Concerned Parents and Youth
- All United Church members committed to HIV/AIDS Ministries.
The plan recognized that if the UCC was to effectively respond to the growing HIV/AIDS pandemic, it would need to find a way to mobilize the whole church, empowering the centers of ministry, namely, local congregations. It called for UCAN to meet with leadership at all levels throughout the church, focusing their attention on key Conference, Association and local church leadership, clergy and lay. UCAN worked collaboratively with UCC Resource Centers to create a library of HIV/AIDS related resources that could be easily accessed by local church leadership. It worked to create Conference and Association based networks of mutually supportive persons committed to ministering to one another, respecting the autonomous decision-making of each entity.
UCAN also endeavored to bring together already existing UCC HIV ministries, such as local Task Forces to become part of the UCAN covenantal community as UCAN Partners in Ministry. UCAN became a clearinghouse for resources developed by these Task Forces, sharing them throughout the UCC.
The concept of an ad hoc nature of the Leadership Team was also intentional. Each Leadership Team was constituted for a time and purpose appropriate to the tasks needed to be done. The ad hoc leadership design was intended to minimize entrenched, ineffective or uncommitted leadership and to allow individuals, already under the stresses of the pandemic, to be supported, guarding against "burn out." It also allowed for the equally important emergence of new people and new ideas.
As a UCC national, covenantal community, UCAN worked to break down barriers that caused persons affected by HIV/AIDS to experience isolation from their sisters and brothers in the community of faith. It consistently broke the silence about HIV/AIDS wherever it existed within the church, with words and deeds that increased understanding, nurtured hope, offered encouragement and provided comfort.
UCAN Implements the Plan: 1990-2002
From 1990-2002, UCAN built its membership, led retreats for people living with HIV or AIDS, created resources, developed training modules, initiated education and prevention efforts, conducted workshops, hosted exhibits, provided leadership at ecumenical and interfaith tables, advocated for strong public policy and kept the work of responding to the pandemic ever before the UCC. It was during this time that the UCC's HIV/AIDS curriculum, Affirming Persons, Saving Lives (1993), was published by UCBHM. UCAN was instrumental in its development, promotion and implementation.
General Synod and National Youth Events
Much of the visible work of UCAN throughout the 1990s took place during General Synod meetings. UCAN was present at each General Synod (1991 – 2001), where they consistently had a table/booth, which included safer-sex products, CDC brochures and many other supplies. UCAN also facilitated workshops on sex and AIDS education, held after-hours programs and social gatherings at these General Synod meetings.
At General Synod 19 (1993, St. Louis, MO), the newly published Affirming Persons, Saving Lives curriculum was enthusiastically promoted (see section below on Affirming Persons, Saving Lives curriculum).
At General Synod 23 (2001, Kansas City, MO), a resolution entitled, "The Epidemic of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome on the Continent of Africa," was passed. This resolution recommended information-sharing with local churches, Associations, and Conferences on how the United Church of Christ is responding to the AIDS crisis in Africa and how these groups may further assist this response. It also encouraged advocacy and support for those affected by HIV and AIDS in Africa, and called for meaningful and prayerful dialogue concerning HIV and AIDS with our partner churches on the African continent.
In addition to General Synod, UCAN was also present at several National Youth Events, at which they led various workshops on safer-sex education. David Kamens, a young adult living with AIDS, led many of these workshops at National Youth Events and General Synods.
Affirming Persons, Saving Lives Curriculum
A significant part of UCAN's work during the 1990s was the development of the Affirming Persons, Saving Lives curriculum. Work began on this curriculum in 1990 and it was published in 1993.
Affirming Persons, Saving Lives is the first comprehensive curriculum for AIDS prevention published for Christian churches. With lesson plans for every age—adults, teenagers and children—the curriculum was designed to help churches become learning centers to protect lives threatened by the AIDS epidemic. It is intended for use in Christian education and other settings and includes Bible studies, prayers and theological reflections. With two videos and 1,000 pages of lesson plans and fact sheets, the curriculum is a complete resource for AIDS education. Teachers using the curriculum do not need any special training.
This curriculum was created by UCAN and the HIV/AIDS Ministry Program of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries. Experienced AIDS educators, Cynthia A. Bouman and the Rev. William R. Johnson, Ed. D., are the co-authors. United Church of Christ members living with HIV and AIDS, youth, Christian educators, AIDS ministers, parents, parish clergy and church school teachers also helped develop this resource. Throughout its development (1990 – 1993), extensive field testing took place at national consultations, regional church meetings and in the church schools of several UCC congregations.
The curriculum was launched at General Synod 19, with a big display at UCAN's booth. Initial promotion was also done through advertisements in the United Church News and through the United Church Resources Warehouse. In addition, visits were made to Conference meetings and Youth Gatherings, encouraging its use.
A Turning Point
By 2002 there were significant developments in the fight against HIV. Advances in medical science offered treatment that could keep HIV from replicating in the body. For persons living with HIV able to access these medications, they added both quantity and quality to their lives. As more became known and treatments improved and were more widely available in the U.S., the sense of urgency and energy for response began to wane. It became more difficult to raise funds and the national setting of the UCC experienced budget reductions, creating a funding gap. At the same time, HIV continued to spread both in the U.S. and throughout the world, with the poor in developing countries, especially on the continent of Africa, hit the hardest. In the U.S., infection rates were increasing at alarming and disproportionate rates in communities of color, especially in African America/Black and Latino/a communities. UCAN had reached a turning point.
New leadership was welcomed in the Wider Church Ministries office for HIV and AIDS ministries (Health and Wholeness Advocacy,) in the person of the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, accompanied by an increased sense of urgency to work with people of color congregations and communities. During this period of transition, The Rev. Yvette Flunder served as a special consultant, working with local congregations, Conferences and Associations on their outreach to communities of color.
New Leadership with a Vision
In 2005, after consulting with several UCC local church leaders whose congregations had successful HIV/AIDS programs, a new initiative emerged, centered on the increasing number of HIV/AIDS affected groups within communities of color throughout the United States. The UCAN "brand" was lifted-up again at GS25 with the first UCAN dinner, keynoted by the Reverend Adora Iris Lee, a Global Ministries missionary who was coordinating HIV ministry in southern Africa. In August 2005, Rev. Schuenemeyer convened leaders from five significant UCC local church programs serving communities of color hard hit by HIV/AIDS.
The participants in this meeting began crafting a vision for a UCAN Faith Community Project which initially would develop a population based deliverable to address and promote HIV/AIDS outreach by UCC Congregations on behalf of people of color. It was further determined that the Project would seek to build capacity for UCC HIV/AIDS outreach programs in the following population order:
- African American/Black Congregations,
- Latino/a Congregations,
- Asian Pacific Islander Congregations
- First Nation/Native American Congregations
- Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM)
The intention of the prioritizing is to work inclusively with all communities, even beyond the list above, but also to recognize that limited time and resources must be focused to enable critical presence at the point of deepest need.
The leaders at the August 2005 meeting agreed to serve as the new working group/leadership team for UCAN, in the style of the ad hoc leadership team model of the original UCAN development plan. They began to promote awareness, and offer technical assistance workshops and consultation in February 2006. In June of 2006, the new UCAN Leadership Team met in San Francisco for planning at which a new 4 year plan was developed.
Over the months since then, UCAN has worked to implement their plan. They conducted a workshop at the United Black Christian's meeting, produced and distributed materials for World AIDS Day, created visibility on a full page ad in UC News (October 2006), and provided leadership in HIV workshops at the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference.
UCAN Incorporates as a Nonprofit Charitable Organization
In April of 2007, in order to continue to increase its capacity in the most effective ways, the Wider Church Ministries Board of Directors approved a proposal to create a new 501(c)(3) for UCAN. UCAN became incorporated as UCAN Inc. and in 2008, gained its official IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit status. Since then, UCAN has continued to produce regular resources and communications, such as newsletters and World AIDS Day prayers, litanies, etc., and kept its commitment to lead educational workshops. UCAN also participated in local events around the country, such as the New York State Department of Health Faith Forum, and convened other events, including the gathering of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance and National Black Leadership Coalition on AIDS (in New York). In June 2008, UCAN demonstrated their commitment to the use of culturally/linguistically appropriate resources by publishing a Spanish language version of their HIV education cards, "Why Use Condoms".
UCAN has contributed to the rich legacy of the UCC and includes prophetic and courageous leadership at every stage of this disease. It is a legacy of finding new ways to bring critical presence where it is needed most and working creatively and collaborative with others to realize a vision of health and wholeness. That said, the pandemic demands resources and capacity that far and away outpaces what UCAN is currently able to do. The mission is as urgent today as it ever has been—the work of enabling, empowering and resourcing local church leaders and their congregations, to build their ability and capacity to respond to HIV and AIDS in their own communities, as well as, participating in and supporting global efforts.
The mission of UCAN (The United Church of Christ HIV and AIDS Network) is to build a network of people, congregations and organizations within and beyond the United Church of Christ for care giving, education and prevention in response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic by:
- Providing technical assistance to help congregations and other settings of the church start and build their capacity and programs;
- Offering training in the use of the UCC's comprehensive HIV and AIDS curriculum, Affirming Persons, Saving Lives, as well as other HIV and AIDS educational resources;
- Giving leadership for education and information on public policy concerns; and
- Prioritizing its work to bring critical presence to those most affected by HIV and AIDS in the United States and throughout the world.
UCAN News is published twice annually, in the Fall and Spring and features articles, resources and information for HIV and AIDS ministries from the United Church of Christ HIV and AIDS Network (UCAN).
- Summer-Fall 2011
- Winter-Spring 2011
- Spring-Summer 2010
- World AIDS Day 2009
- General Synod 2009
- Fall-Winter 2008-09
- Spring-Summer 2008
- Fall 2007
UCAN Stop AIDS E-News is the new HIV and AIDS e-newsletter published by the United Church of Christ HIV and AIDS Network (UCAN). By subscribing to this e-newsletter, you can receive updates on what the UCC office for HIV and AIDS Ministries is doing and what UCAN and Global Ministries' partners are doing, as we work together in response to the global AIDS pandemic.
UCAN Stop AIDS eNews 2007-11-30
UCAN Stop AIDS eNews 2007-10-15
UCAN Stop AIDS eNews 2007-10-01
UCAN Stop AIDS eNews 2007-07-10
UCAN Stop AIDS eNews 2007-06-19
UCAn Stop AIDS eNews 2007-04-17
UCAN Stop AIDS eNews 2007-03-16
UCAN Stop AIDS eNews 2007-02-26
UCAN Inc. is the United Church of Christ HIV and AIDS Network,
a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
|Board of Directors||Regional Staff
James Moos* **
Anthony Sullivan, Jr.
* ex officio, with vote
** UCC Board Representative
St. Stephen's Community Church United Church of Christ
Adora Iris lee
John L. Selders, Jr.
Anthony W. Sullivan, Jr.
Rose Wright Scott
"What a gift to have this much-awaited resource for 18-35 year olds. Our Whole Lives-Sexuality and Our Faith for young adults is such an incredible opportunity. This inclusive, sexuality positive curriculum celebrates our sexuality as the amazing gift---from God---that it is. Through this program, young adults have the delicious chance to participate in exactly what many hunger for---frank, holistic, non-judgmental exploration of contemporary sexual questions, choices and practices and the chance to explore the powerful, zesty and life-giving relationship between sexuality and spirituality. And to do this within the beautiful, guiding framework of progressive Christianity which honors and celebrates our roots----mutuality, love and justice. This curriculum is a sacred gift. For the taking. Unwrap it!" (Lynn Young, Colorado Springs, CO)
This Young Adult resource helps participants by giving them accurate information, increased knowledge about themselves, and embraces the Our Whole Lives values of self worth, responsibility, sexual health, justice and inclusivity. This new young adult resource will expand valuable ministry to young adults not only in local church settings, but also a colleges and seminaries.
There are 14 sessions in this book. It can be ordered through United Church Resources ($40) by calling: 1.800.537.3394.
You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. ---Deuteronomy 24:14-15
Each worker - judge or janitor, sales clerk or scientist, mother or millionaire CEO - is equal in the sight of God. Each person's work, done with integrity, is a contribution to society and has value and dignity. But the world doesn't always see it this way.
Workers are dependent on their employer but employers are much less dependent on any particular worker. This unequal power relationship can lead to problems in the workplace. A common way that workers have responded is to join a labor union.
Articles and studies
Fast-food workers intensify fight for $15 an hour by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, July 28, 2014
The war on workers, April 3, 2014. A recent Supreme Court ruling weakens the labor movement.
At labor group, a sense of a broader movement, Sept 14, 2013. The labor movement is all workers who act together to improve our jobs.
AFL-CIO has plan to add millions of nonunion members by Steven Greenhouse in the New York Times, Sept. 7, 2013.
If labor dies, what's next? by Harold Meyerson in the American Prospect, Sep/Oct 2012. An excellent overview of the current state of the labor movement plus a brief history of the developments in the U.S. labor movement since 1834.
State and local government workers' unions are under attack. Read more.
Unions are one of the very best ways for workers to bring greater justice to the workplace. The right of workers to form or join unions is so important and fundamental that it is an internationally-recognized human right.
In 1993 the United Church of Christ's General Synod XIX expressed its support "for public policies that restore the rights of working people to engage in collective bargaining without fear of reprisal."
In 1997 General Synod XXI reaffirmed the "responsibility of workers to organize for collective bargaining with employers regarding wages, benefits, and working conditions, and the responsibility of employers to create and maintain a climate conducive to the workers' autonomous decision to organize."
Today just as much as ever, workers need unions. All people who seek justice must support workers' rights to form and join a union. The right to organize a union and bargain collectively with employers is a fundamental human rights. See Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Why People of Faith Support Labor Unions describes how our faith calls us to support workers and their labor unions, and calls for Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.
Why Unions Matter (2.51MB) by our partner Interfaith Worker Justice
Workers, acting together in a union, have been able to improve their work lives and their work places. Congregations and members of the UCC have been involved in these struggles.
Farm workers struggled for better conditions in the fields picking tomatoes for Taco Bell, McDonalds, and Burger King. They now have labor contracts with these firms, higher wages, and greater dignity.
- Smithfield Packing Company workers after many years of struggle were able to freely make the choice to form a union.
As a congregation discerns whether to become an Economic Justice Church, it can be helpful to learn about some of the economic injustices that millions, even billions, of people face every day. Or, once a congregation decides to be an Economic Justice Church, it may want to explore various topics to discern the justice work it is being called to do.
This section of the Economic Justice Covenant Program is intended to give readers small amounts of important information about a number of economic justice topics. Don’t be overwhelmed. Browse through these issues and see what touches your heart, what touches the heart of the congregation. What are you being called to work on at this time?
Each topic area provides links to more resources and suggestions about ways to get involved and begin to change unjust conditions. In addition to the resources and organizations found in these links, there are probably local or state-based organizations working on these issues closer to your church. You may prefer to work close to home through these groups.
Congregational Resource: Restoring Justice and Democracy in America
What faith communities can do. A six session congregation-based educational program prepared by UCC members in the Northern California/Nevada Conference. Download.
Issues to ExplorePublic Education & Economic Justice
“Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbors work for nothing, and does not give them their wages; who says, ‘I will build myself a spacious house with large upper rooms,’ who cuts out windows for it, paneling it with cedar, and painting it with vermillion. Are you a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me?” says the Lord. Jeremiah 22:13-16
Scripture reveals that the struggle to achieve economic justice for all is an imperative of the Christian faith. The Bible contains many passages related to the poor and matters of economic justice. It makes clear God’s deep concern for the last, the lost, and the least. As illustrated in the Gospel stories where Jesus and the disciples feed thousands of people with just a few loaves of bread and fish (Matt 14:13-21; 15:32-38), God’s economy is a gift of grace that is not for sale in the marketplace. God’s economy of life provides abundantly for all God’s people.
We are called to share with our neighbors out of the abundance that God gives to the world. The poor and marginalized are special members of God’s community and we are called to put justice for “the least of these” at the center of the community of life and the mission of the church (Matt 25:40). The Bible tells us that rules devised to benefit some segments of society should not stand if they also disadvantage or harm the poor. “Hear this,” warns Amos (8:4) “you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land…” indicating that manipulating markets, cheating, and exploiting the poor are violations of the vision of God.
God’s envisions a world where all God’s children have everything they need to thrive, live lives of wholeness, and be the people they were created to be. To make God’s vision a reality, God calls the Church to action, to “loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6). Let us answer God’s call to be co-creators with God of a world of justice.
The General Synod has repeatedly spoken about the need for economic justice. Two Synod pronouncements are especially informative:
- Christian Faith: Economic Life and Justice [pdf 11.4 MB], approved by General Synod XVII in 1989, saw the struggle to achieve economic justice for all as an imperative of the Christian faith and made a commitment to a guaranteed national minimum income level, universal health care, full employment, affordable housing, and quality education for all.
- A Faithful Response: Calling for a More Just and Humane Direction for Economic Globalization, approved by General Synod XXIV in 2003, describes the impact of the past 25 years of “neo-liberal” economic globalization and calls for fundamental changes in the rules and institutions that shape the process of globalization.
Important resolutions include:
- Affirming Democratic Principles in an Emerging Global Economy (GS XXI, 1999) calls us to support unions, and advocate for just, democratic, participatory, and inclusive economic policies.
- For the Common Good (GS XXV, 2005) calls for fair taxes, public institutions and services, full employment, living wages, adequate income for each person, affordable housing, public transportation.
A listing of all General Synod resolutions and pronouncements that address economic issues since 1999 and selected ones before that date.
Direct Action & Research Training Network Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST) (St. Petersburg)
Mission: Coalition of over 35 religious congregations working together to achieve social and economic justice in Pinellas county, FL. FAST is a grassroots, direct-action, multi-issue organization which brings people together to improve the quality of life in their communities. FAST's mission is to build the power of religious congregations to solve community problems by holding systems accountable. FAST organizes its membership to a large 'direct action' where leaders negotiate with public officials from a position of mutual power and respect. (http://www.thedartcenter.org/location/fast)
Volunteer Position: Community organizing with congregations. This position includes coordination with leaders in congregations, research, action and financial development.
Period: 9-12 month placements throughout the year
Apply by: 3 months prior to requested start date
Housing: Host Family
Minimum Age: 21 years with college degree
Direct Action & Research Training Network Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation, & Empowerment (ICARE) (Jacksonville)
Mission: ICARE is a coalition of over 20 religious congregations working together to achieve social & economic justice in the Jacksonville area. ICARE's mission is to build the power of religious congregations to solve community problems by holding systems accountable. ICARE organizes its membership to a lar 'direct action' where leaders can negotiate with public officials from a position of mutual power and respect. The DART Network of congregation-based community organizations based in nineteen cities throughout five states. (http://www.thedartcenter.org/location/icare-5/)
Volunteer Position: This position includes coordination with leaders in congregations, reach, action and financial development
Period: 9-12 month placements throughout the year
Apply by: 3 months prior to requested start date
Housing: Host Family
Minimum Age: 21 years with college degree
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