God is still speaking through and to the United Church of Christ. Members and congregations are claiming and embracing God's call to evangelism. Evangelism is vital for the future of the United Church of Christ. God is saying to the United Church of Christ to be ready and set to grow in witness, outreach and welcome.
Evangelism Ministry proclaims the gospel in the world and the church, as well as, starts, nurtures, strengthens and renews congregations in partnership with Conferences.
Evangelism Ministry works with The Congregational Vitality Initiative to provide resources and workshop for vital congregations to be ready and set to grow in discerning God's mission, understanding community and culture, and nurturing discipleship of witness, outreach and welcome.
The response to The Still Speaking Ministry has shown that Now is the Time for New Church Development in the United Church of Christ. In partnership with Conferences, the Now is the Time Vision and Strategy calls for a growth toward 250 new churches by 2011 and more than 1,600 new churches by 2021. Developing leadership for new churches is necessary. This summer the second Leadership Institute for New Church Planters will be held in Atlanta in August. Potential new church planters can assess their gifts for new church development using an Assessment Tool available through Evangelism Ministry. Evangelism Ministry works in partnership with Local Church Ministries Church Building & Loan to prepare new churches to become Partners in Building. Evangelism Ministry provides funding for new and renewing congregations in partnership with Conferences.
Please browse our listing of resources that you can use to lift up Evangelism in your local congregtion.
As well, take the time to read a brief message from Minister and Team Leader, the Rev. David Schoen.
Churches Growing Churches
On-line resource partners
Visit the links below for additional Evangelism resources:
Blessings as you get ready and set to grow to be the evangelist that God is calling you to be!
The UCC Young Adult Ministries mission statement
We strive to be inclusive of the whole body of Christ in local churches, associations, conferences, and national entities.
The mission of Young Adult Ministries:
Affirm the unique gifts, talents, and ministries of young adults;
Provide opportunities through programs and resources for young adults to explore ways to integrate their faith in their lives and through their life transitions;
Develop young adult leadership and ministry trough resources and training programs to empower young adults and strengthen their commitment to the United Church of Christ;
Support existing models and create new models for ministries with young adults in higher education;
Work to deepen the multiracial multicultural richness and understanding within the United Church of Christ by supporting involvement of young adults from all racial/ethnic groups and acknowledging that differences are assets to ministry;
Work to ensure fair and adequate representation by young adults throughout the life of the United Church of Christ, including all boards, councils, and committees of the church;
Nurture leaders of young adult ministries through training, resources and creating environments of support;
Fully embrace young adults in our churches and in our communities, addressing their needs and issues through evangelism and a spirit of Christian fellowship, renewing and supporting the growth of the body of Christ.
The Rev. Paul H. Sherry
United Church of Christ
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8.1)
In recent months we have witnessed the continuance of hate crimes against gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons, while in the church discussion about their civil rights and the appropriateness of their membership and ministry in the life of the church has intensified. Several denominations in the United States, as well as some churches and bishops around the world, have adopted or reaffirmed policies that exclude gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons from sharing fully in the ministry of the church. Other Christian leaders have harshly suggested that gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons have no place at all in the life of the church and that their human rights do not deserve the full measure of legal protection. In addition, some political leaders, usually claiming religious support, have vigorously opposed efforts to secure these very rights. Sometimes these anti-gay positions have been justified by flawed scientific understandings of the nature of homosexuality. Underlying many of these convictions is the assumption, frequently untested, that the Bible in general, and Christianity in particular, teach that homosexuality is a sin.
In my role as pastor to the United Church of Christ, and in this season of theological reflection on "The Inclusive Church," I offer this Pastoral Letter to remind all of us that the church is to be a place where all are welcomed, where the gifts of all are recognized and received, and where the rights of all are defended and promoted. When so many in our society would reject and exclude, it is critical that we of the United Church of Christ bear witness to the conviction that it is possible to be deeply faithful to the Bible, profoundly respectful of the historic faith of the church and of its sacraments, and at the same time support the full inclusion and participation of all God's children in the membership and ministry of the church. Likewise, there can be no compromise that all persons in this society must enjoy equal protection under the law.
I write in deep gratitude for the journey of discernment and action that the United Church of Christ has taken over the past several decades. For all our difficulties and challenges, I believe the United Church of Christ is uniquely equipped to take on this complex but crucial vocation both in the public arena and among our ecumenical partners. Informed by the actions of several General Synods, by Biblical and theological reflection, and above all by countless pastoral encounters with members of our church, I am convinced that there must be and will be no turning back from our commitment, especially in the face of the current prejudice and misunderstanding prevalent in both the church and the society.
Contrary to what some assume or allege, the conviction of the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, along with the witness of many conferences, associations, and local churches, is not a superficial response to changing cultural norms or an easy reaction to certain social opinions. At their best, our commitments have grown out of a profound reflection on the meaning of our baptism and our participation in the sacrament of holy communion. Our commitments have grown as we have responded pastorally to the needs of many of our members and their families who have been the victims of prejudice or who have experienced rejection in the church.
We have been confronted and gifted by the presence in our church of gay, lesbian, and bisexual Christians who have been baptized in our sanctuaries, confirmed before our altars, and ordained by our associations. We have been confronted and gifted by men and women faithfully attentive to the Word, diligent in their sacramental life, forthright in their Christian witness and compassionate in their service. We have been confronted and gifted by parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, faithful members of our church, whose embrace by a loving God has enabled them to accept a gay, lesbian, or bisexual family member, and who yearn for that same loving embrace to be extended by the church to their child, their grandchild, their brother or sister, their parent. We have been confronted and gifted by faithful, mature, and able members who have experienced God's call to the ordained ministry of Word and Sacrament, who have sought and received the recognition and authorization of the church. We have been confronted and gifted by ordained men and women who have served faithfully and well for many years and who now wish to minister among us with renewed vitality openly affirming their same gender orientation. We have been confronted and gifted by gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons who have found love in the physical, emotional, and spiritual embrace of another, and are living in committed covenantal relationships of fidelity and trust which they yearn for the church to bless and the society to respect and protect. And we have been confronted and gifted by members of our church and those of other churches who have known the pain of rejection, the anguish of exclusion, and the fear of abuse, yet who remain faithful to their baptismal vows, seek to be fed at Christ's Table, and desire to be engaged in the mission of Christ's reconciling love in the world.
Confronted and gifted by these baptized persons, members of the United Church of Christ have been challenged to read the Bible again with new eyes and listen to the Holy Spirit with new ears. We have had to reexamine long held assumptions about those few passages of Scripture that appear to speak about homosexuality in the light of transforming interpretations from widely respected Bible scholars and teachers, and we have begun to recognize how our fears of those who are different, and our society's deeply entrenched bias against homosexual persons has often distorted and nearly silenced the Bible's liberating and inclusive voice. At the same time, encounters with hurting and excluded sisters and brothers have caused us to look to the whole of Scripture which speaks of a God who continually reaches out for those who are cast out for any reason, those who live at the margins of our lives. We have been reminded of our identity as disciples of the One who often ate with those rejected by the religious norms of the day, the One who sets before us all the Table of God's inclusive love, mercy, and grace.
In these encounters, we have remembered our own history, recalling ways we have been led to expand the church's welcome to others who have been excluded. We remembered the Amistad and the story of our forebears, both enslaved and free, who rejected Biblical interpretations that supported slavery and whose new appreciation for the Gospel's mandate led them to fight for freedom for all. We remembered Japanese Americans driven from their homes during the Second World War, and those of our churches who spoke out for their rights. We remembered many women who refused to submit to a misuse of the Bible that denied them places of leadership or that conspired in their abuse, and who found affirmation and encouragement in our churches, our colleges, and our seminaries. We remembered ancestors of our Hungarian sisters and brothers whose witness to the Reformed faith led to their persecution as galley slaves and martyrs, as well as those who fled oppression in 1956 to find safe haven among our churches. More recently we remembered our church's call for self-determination for Puerto Rican people, the championing of the rights of Chicano farm workers, the call for respect for the dignity of Native American people demeaned by caricature and stereotype, the recognition of the rights of Indigenous Hawaiians deprived of their land and culture, and solidarity with those who declared that the apartheid system erected and supported by other Bible reading Christians was idolatry, a denial of the very integrity of the church's confession. All of this has helped us discover that our church's concern for the rights and dignity of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people is not a break from our past, or a departure from Scripture, but is informed by our moments of greatest fidelity to the prophetic voice of the Bible and the Gospel's embrace for those who, with Christ, have been despised.
The encounters in our own church with each other over the subject of sexual orientation have not been easy and, for some, remain profoundly disturbing. We have experienced conflict; the covenants that bind us together have been tested. At times we have felt isolated from and misunderstood by some in the ecumenical community. But we have also experienced marvelous surprises:
- the growth and vitality of many local churches that have declared themselves open to and affirming of the gifts of gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons;
- the gracious perseverance of The United Church Coalition for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns which, for twenty-six years, has been a prophetic presence in our church, clarifying concerns, challenging stereotypes, providing leaders for every setting of the church's life, gently and persistently changing hearts and minds, providing a refuge for those who have suffered wounds of prejudice and exclusion in church and society;
- the gratitude and encouragement of Christians in other churches who have found in our church's journey to new understandings a sign of hope amid discouragement;
- the growing self-esteem of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth in our church who are able to worship in congregations that respect their full humanity, as well as the heterosexual youth in our churches who have found themselves called to confront the anti-gay prejudice so prevalent in their schools;
- the renewal that springs forth as we discover, again, that we are not trapped by the past but are part of a living tradition that is "reformed, yet always reforming," a people whose only comfort in life and in death is that they belong to Christ.
In these days we dare not be arrogant. The story of our pilgrimage with our gay, lesbian, and bisexual members at times has been marked by hesitation, fear, and frequent failures of nerve. At times prophetic voices, whether heard from inside or from outside the church, have been resisted. We have not always been properly respectful, or sought to understand with sincerity, those sisters and brothers among us who do not share our understanding or conviction or witness. At the same time, we have sometimes failed to recognize how the Bible has been used by some to perpetuate prejudice and to justify violence against homosexual persons.
But in these days we dare not be silent, either. I believe our voice among the churches and within our society is urgently needed, bearing witness to the belief that God cherishes all and dignifies all, and to our experience of gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons as gifts of God, called with us by their baptism into the fullest participation in God's mission of reconciliation in the world. I am convinced this voice will have power insofar as it is a voice shaped by the language of faith and the experience of worship, a voice in which the liberating truth of the Bible can be heard, and the courageous spirit of the saints will be echoed. By that voice, I believe, our churches will be renewed. More importantly, in that voice, I believe, the lonely will be called to companionship, the frightened will find comfort, the abused will know safety, and those sisters and brothers in Christ who have lost hope will rediscover the blessing of their baptism: Child of God, disciple of Christ, member of Christ's Church.
Open and Affirming (ONA) is the United Church of Christ's (UCC) designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies in the UCC which make a public covenant of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.
Open and Affirming Resources
UCC Resources carries ONA and other LGBT related published by the UCC, Pilgrim Press and the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns.
Building an Inclusive Church - training and toolkit resources for preparing and facilitating the ONA process
United Church of Christ Office for LGBT Ministries
Health and Wholeness Advocacy, Justice and Local Church Ministries
Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, Executive and Team Leader
Phone: +1 216-736-3217
HIV & AIDS
Andy Lang, Executive Director
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ)
Same Gender Loving (SGL)
Who ever you are, where ever you are on life's journey, you are welcome here!
Connect with us on Facebook: UCC LGBTQ Ministries
UCC News Story: UCC 'a visible presence' at National Tran Visibility March in DC.
Open and Affirming (ONA)
Open and Affirming is a journey of building inclusive churches and other ministry settings that welcome the full participation of LGBT people in the UCC's life and ministry.
Find an Open and Affirming UCC church
Please note: Many UCC congregations which may not have adopted an ONA covenant for various reasons are nevertheless welcoming and safe communities for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians.
by United Church of Christ National Bodies
Since 1969 various national settings of the United Church of Christ have addressed the concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in church and society, calling for welcome, inclusion and justice. On this page you will find a comprehensive list of the pronouncements, resolutions and other actions adopted by the General Synod, Executive Council and other UCC national bodies. You will also find links to the texts of these actions.
List of Actions
2011, "Supporting International Human Rights Related to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity", 28th General Synod
2011, "The Right of LGBT Parents to Adopt and Raise Children", 28th General Synod
2009, "Affirming Diversity/Multi-Cultural Education in the Public Schools", 27th General Synod
2005, "Equal Marriage Rights for All", 25th General Synod
2005, "Equal Marriage Rights for All", 25th General Synod with the background text.
2004, "Call to Action and Invitation to Dialogue on Marriage", Executive Council
2003, "Reaffirming the United Church of Christ's Denouncement of Violence Against Lesbian and Gay People and Calling for the Inclusion of Transgender people within that Anti-violence Statement", 24th General Synod
2003, "The United Church of Christ and the Boy Scouts of America", 24th General Synod
1999, "Prevention of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth Suicide", 22nd General Synod
1999, "Affirming and Strengthening Marriage", 22nd General Synod
1998, "Passage of Hate Crimes Legislation", Executive Council
1997, "Fidelity and Integrity in all Covenanted Relationships", 21st General Synod
1996, "Equal Marriage Rights for Same-sex Couples", Directorate of the Office of Church in Society
1996, "Equal Marriage Rights for Same Gender Couples", Board of Directors of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries
1993, "Resolution Calling on the Church for Greater Leadership to End Discrimination against Gays and Lesbians", 19th General Synod
1993, "A Call to End the Ban against Gays and Lesbians in the Military", 19th General Synod
1991, "Resolution on Virginia Privacy Laws", 18th General Synod
1991, "Resolution on Affirming Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Persons and their Ministries", 18th General Synod
1989, "Resolution Deploring Violence against Lesbian and Gay People", 17th General Synod
1987, "Resolution on the Right to Privacy", 16th General Synod
1985, "Resolution Calling on United Church of Christ Congregations to Declare Themselves Open and Affirming", 15th General Synod
1983, "Report of the Task Force for the Study of Human Sexuality", 14th General Synod
1983, "Resolution on the Institutionalized Homophobia within the United Church of Christ", 14th General Synod
1980, 81, "Equal Employment Opportunity Policy and Revision", Executive Council
1977, "Recommendations in Regard to the Human Sexuality Study", 11th General Synod
1977, "Resolution Deploring the Violation of Civil Rights of Gay and Bisexual Persons", 11th General Synod
1975, "Resolution on Human Sexuality and the Needs of Gay and Bisexual Persons", 10th General Synod
1975, "A Pronouncement: Civil Liberties without Discrimination Related to Affectional or Sexual Preference", 10th General Synod
1973, "Human Sexuality and Ordination", Executive Council
1969, "Resolution on Homosexuals and the Law", Council for Christian Social Action
For more information:
You can't say the word transgender and people really know what you're talking about. But anybody who says the word transgender means something different by it anyway, so it really is a story and not just a label. - Malcolm
Call Me Malcolm is an amazing story of the human spirit and God's spirit, and the liberating struggle to realize and express with confidence the marvelous gift of one's truest sense of self. As Malcolm shares his own story and through the stories of others we meet, Call Me Malcolm offers us a glimpse into the real lives of real people who are transgender. But it is only a glimpse. There are many stories to be told and Malcolm helps us make connections to our own stories, encouraging us to share them. That can seem daunting in a culture which has done more to heap shame on persons who identify as transgender. The good news of Malcolm's story is the way in which shame and fear are overcome by grace, compassion and knowledge. Viewers cannot help but come to a deeper understanding of faith, love, and gender identity, and by doing so, arrive at a deeper understanding of their own journey.
Produced by the United Church of Christ and Filmworks, Inc.
To play video clips from the film, click here and then on "Clips" from the Call Me Malcolm home page menu bar.
Download Study Guides
For more information about the film: www.callmemalcolm.com
At the recent General Synod 25 in Atlanta, a resolution called, "Another World Is Possible: A Peace With Justice Movement in the United Church of Christ," was adopted by the Synod. This resolution lifts up and affirms previous actions of the General Synod which have given the UCC many of its distinctive justice identities, such as being a Just Peace Church.
On the occasion of this important anniversary, local churches are encouraged to offer prayers and times of reflection on the significance of the past sixty years, and to pray and offer witness for peace in the world and the elimination of all stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Another world is possible. It must be possible. A world void of nuclear weapons with their devastating and long lasting affects on the peoples of this world, and on the earth.
A Prayer of Remembrance
O God, tender and just,
the names of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
cut through our denial
that we are capable of destroying the earth
and all that dwell therein.
Forgive us -
and help us to always remember.
We must remember because this must never happen again.
We must remember because you would have us live
in harmony with each other,
seeing the joy of your creation in our
sisters and brothers.
Holy God, God of all the ages,
lead us from death to life,
to the stockpiling of hope, and of possibilities,
and of love
rather than the stockpiling of weapons, or stones to throw,
or of hate.
We pray for the healing of the earth and of its peoples,
especially for our sisters and brothers
upon whom a nuclear rain poured down.
Help us to imagine that another world is possible
and guide our actions towards the peace
you envision, the peace you have already given us.
In the name of the One who came so that we might have life,
and have it abundantly, we pray.
Written by Rev. Loey Powell
There are several activities you and your church might consider taking part in during this time. Organize a local Shadow Project in your community. This project uses the simple technique of drawing the outlines of persons with chalk on sidewalks to symbolize the hundreds of thousands of residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who were vaporized in the blasts. Check out the website for the Shadow Project, or call them at 503-274-2720.
Many liturgical ideas and other resources which could be used on Sunday, July 31 or August 7, or at special services of remembrance during the week, are available from the United Methodists.
For more information on these actions, or on organizing a candlelight vigil on August 9 at your city hall, or for downloads of Days of Remembrance action postcards, visit the website of Waging Peace. (The National Council of Churches has endorsed these efforts.)
- Marriage Equality and the UCC
- Sign on: "Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality"
- Press Releases
Watch Faith and Morality Play Major Roles in Gay Marriage Debate on PBS.
Aspects of religion and morality have been used as the basis for arguments by both sides of the debate on same-sex marriage. Ray Suarez talks with Michael Schuenemeyer, minister for the United Church of Christ, and Richard Langer, a minister with the Evangelical Free Church of America, to learn how they've approached the topic.
The UCC is part of the United for Marriage Coalition.
Click here to see photos from the Interfaith Service and Rallies at the U.S. Supreme Court for the oral arguments in the two marriage cases: Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop 8) and Windsor v. United States (Defense of Marriage Act - DOMA), March 26 & 27, 2013.
Marriage Equality and the UCC
Marriage is one of the most significant institutions in our culture. The sacred and civil, church and state dimensions of marriage are complex and often muddled, which makes marriage one of the most challenging issues to discuss in the church and beyond.
On July 4, 2005, at the 25th General Synod of the United Church of Christ in Atlanta, delegates voted to adopt the resolution, "Equal Marriage Rights for All" The resources below are provided to help facilitate conversations and study throughout the church and society on this complex and challenging matter which has important implications for individuals, families and the wider community. They are intended to get people of faith talking about the purposes of marriage, looking more closely at how marriage has evolved and changed through time biblically and socially, exploring the theology of marriage, and critically discerning the appropriate roles for the church and the state in marriage.
The colleagues who worked together to prepare these resources join the Conference Ministers of the United Church of Christ who, in calling us to this important dialog say, "let us explore our faith in relation to these issues: the meaning of Christian marriage, the blessing of unions among same-sex couples, the honoring of diverse expressions of loving and caring human relationships, being guided in all things by the love of Jesus. Above all, may these conversations be ventured in humility and prayer."
General Synod 25 (2005) Marriage Resolution
Reflections by General Minister and President, The Rev. John H. Thomas
Call to Action and Invitation to Dialogue, UCC Executive Council (2004)
Call to Dialogue, UCC Conference Ministers (1996)
Please consider signing-on to the
Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing's "Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality"
Online clergy registry being developed
If you are clergy living in California and you will perform same sex marriages, please register with California Faith for Equality.
To register click here.
Inclusive Liturgy from the UCC Book of Worship
Certificate - An embossed certificate for presentation to a couple at their covenant service (envelope included).
Produced by the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns. Click here to order online, or call UCC Resources at 800-537-3394800-537-3394.
God Is Still Speaking about Marriage [Newly Revised, June 2008]
Recommended by General Synod 25
- An in depth Christian education study resource on marriage, including marriage equality for same gender loving couples.
Free Download [PDF] or call UCC Resources to order [Item# WCMGSM], 800-537-3394800-537-3394.
Sacred Covenants, Faithful Conversation, a DVD resource for talking about marriage.
This DVD contains two items: a 30 minute video on the question of marriage equality in light of the resolution adopted by General Synod 25 (2005) and the 45 minute floor debate on the marriage equality resolution at General Synod 25. Order from UCC Resourcesor call (toll free) 800-537-3394800-537-3394, Item# WCMSCFC
UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns
Marriage Equality Debate
This is an audio link to a debate on the civil right to marry for same sex couples held at Stanford University School of Law, on April 20, 2005. The participants in the debate were Evan Wolfson, Executive Director of Freedom to Marry and Rev. Lou Sheldon, President of the Traditional Values Coalition.
- Witness for Justice: In defense of... by Bernice Powell Jackson
- Witness for Justice: Defending what? by Bernice Powell Jackson
- Same-Sex Marriage? A Christian Ethical analysis by Marvin Ellison, (Pilgrim Press 2004)
- What God Has Joined Together, A Christian Case for Gay Marriage by David G. Myers and Letha Dawson Scanzoni (Harper San Francisco 2005)
- Gay Unions in the Light of Scripture, Tradition and Reason by Gray Temple (Church Publishing 2004)
- Why Marriage Matters, America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry by Evan Wolfson (Simon and Schuster 2004)
- Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe by John Boswell (Vintage Books 1994)
- Christianity and the Making of the Modern Family by Rosemary Radford Ruether (Beacon Press 2000)
To the faithful who worked to defeat Question 1 in Maine
- To the faithful who worked to defeat Question 1 in Maine
- UCC's Southern California Nevada Conference reaffirms support for same-gender marriage
- Northern California Nevada Conference affirms California Court decision
- California Supreme Court rules for marriage equality, UCC leaders respond
- UCC official applauds Senate vote against Federal Marriage Amendment
- John Thomas calls on senators to 'respect U.S. Constitution' and vote against marriage amendment
- General Synod overwhelmingly calls for "full marriage equality"
- John Thomas publicly endorses marriage equality resolution
- John Thomas' prayer offered after marriage equality vote
- John Thomas press statement after marriage equality vote
- Andrew Young says Synod's affirmation of marriage equality would be prophetic
- National Coalition for the Freedom to Marry
- Lambda Legal
- American Foundation for Equal Rights
- National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)
- Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
- Claiming the Blessings
- Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD)
- Study Circles Group
What is AIDS?
Education and prevention
Stigma and discrimination
Condoms and needle exchange
Empowerment of women
HIV testing and counseling
HIV/AIDS staff table
What can we do?
Global AIDS Ministry Fund
HIV/AIDS is the most serious health crisis the world has ever faced. HIV does not discriminate. Whether we realize it or not, all of us are affected: rich and poor, especially the poor; men and women, especially the women; old and young, especially the young; and people of every race, especially people of color.
At the end of 2003, the United Nations estimated that more than 40 million people are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Nearly three-fourths of them live in sub-Saharan Africa, one million in the U.S. The current patterns of HIV infection suggest that the pandemic is in its infancy. While the evidence may suggest there is reason for despair, there is also good reason for hope. Everything we need to know about how to prevent HIV infection is known. What is lacking is the dramatic shift in priorities needed to address this disease.
Stephen Lewis, U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, has called apathy in the face of HIV/AIDS "mass-murder by complacency." Our hope is in our ability to mobilize the full potential of our resources and compassion to address the many facets of HIV/AIDS affecting our families, communities and world. Undergirding all of our work is the Gospel truth that it is God's will to bring healing and wholeness to a world with HIV/AIDS.
The HIV/AIDS and other global health ministries of the Office for Health and Wholeness Advocacy work in partnership with individuals, congregations, Associations, Conferences and other settings of the church, including each of the area offices of Global Ministries. We are also involved with other churches and other faiths.
AIDS is an "autoimmune deficiency syndrome" caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), which is spread through blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk. The most common mode of infection is through unprotected sexual intercourse with an HIV-positive partner. Other routes include use of infected needles and syringes (or other skin-piercing equipment); mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding; transfusions of HIV-infected blood or blood products; and transplants of infected tissue or organs.
The first step in HIV/AIDS advocacy is education. "Affirming Persons, Saving Lives" is a comprehensive HIV/AIDS curriculum developed by the United Church of Christ. It contains age appropriate materials, preschool—adult. It is available for the cost of shipping/handling through UCC Resources (800-537-3394). There is also a wealth of quality HIV/AIDS information and most of it is easily accessible via the internet. Link to these sites and you will not only access demographic information about the HIV pandemic, but you will also find basic information on how to prevent becoming infected and learn about strategies for addressing the many needs this disease presents.
Stigma and discrimination create and environment of fear and prejudice and are the primary barriers to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. It is important to overcome prejudice by addressing the issues which lead to infection and interfere with effective treatment. An important step in this direction is to provide comprehensive sex education, which is abstinence-based for children and youth, and encourages fidelity in all covenanted relationships.
When and with whom a person becomes sexually active is a matter of personal choice. Because of the reality of sexual behavior among adolescents and adults, it is critically important to provide medically accurate information about condoms. When used properly, condoms are shown to significantly reduce the risks of infection among sexually active persons, thus saving lives. And, there is no credible research to indicate that making condoms easily accessible encourages sexual behavior. Similarly, there is no credible evidence that shows that easily accessible injection drug needles encourage illicit injection drug use. However, HIV infection rates decrease where needle exchange programs exist.
Not to be overlooked in any effective HIV-prevention strategy is the empowerment of women. In many places throughout the world there are cultural traditions that place women in jeopardy—especially young women and girls. Prevailing views and practices concerning male masculinity make women more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and violence, placing them at extreme risk for HIV and other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Significant efforts must be made to address gender inequality and empower women.
HIV testing and counseling are also important for effective education and prevention. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimate that as many as two-thirds of those who live with HIV in the U.S. do not know they are HIV-positive. While there is no cure for HIV, drug treatment therapies are available that may slow the progress of the disease and extend both the quality and length of life: The earlier the virus is detected, the more effective the treatment. Persons who know and understand their HIV status are more likely to behave in ways that reduce the risk of becoming infected or infecting others. The anonymous data collected from test results contribute to the growing body of information about how and where HIV is spreading. By providing voluntary counseling and testing programs, local churches can raise community awareness and help their loved ones and others living with HIV.
There is an extreme need for medical services and supplies throughout the world, and especially in underdeveloped areas. Among the supplies needed are latex gloves, sterile needles and syringes, HIV testing kits and lab supplies needed to safeguard blood supplies.
Anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs are in very short supply. While costs have been reduced and some patent issues resolved, the need completely overwhelms the demand. As mentioned above, these drugs can increase both the quality and length of life, which is of extreme importance in sub-Saharan Africa where more than 14 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Another important drug in the fight against HIV is Nevirapine, which is proven to reduce the risk of mother-to-child infection during breastfeeding.
Providing adequate nutrition is another important piece in both reducing infection and increasing length and quality of life. However, the World Food Program has identified HIV/AIDS as a major contributing factor to famine conditions in southern Africa. While drought, wars and other problems contribute to famine, in many villages devastated by AIDS there simply are not enough women and men to work the fields to produce food.
Please note: Donations through the Global AIDS Ministry Fund of One Great Hour of Sharing or organizations such as Church World Service are often the most effective and efficient ways to get resources where they are needed most. Before an individual, church or group decides to send supplies, they are strongly encouraged to consult with the appropriate area office of Global Ministries, who will be able to provide assistance in developing a plan to get the resources where they are intended to go.
HIV/AIDS strikes at the heart of community life. By affecting people in the most productive years of life, it undermines economic viability of families and nations and creates the potential for regional instability. In most developing nations, social security is the extended family. HIV/AIDS disrupts this system by the deaths of so many parents. Children are left to be taken care of by the elderly and when they are gone, children are often left to fend for themselves. HIV/AIDS has significantly reduced the numbers of teachers, which debilitates the education system and threatens the future of many nations. The need is great and the challenge is as difficult as anything the world has ever faced.
In the national setting of the UCC, the Office for Health and Wholeness Advocacy of Wider Church Ministries convenes an inter-ministry HIV/AIDS staff table at which each of the four covenanted ministries is represented. With the participation of the COREM (Council of Racial/Ethnic Ministries) related staff of the Office of General Ministries and several Justice and Witness Ministries staff we are developing some key strategies. A priority of the HIV/AIDS Table is addressing the HIV/AIDS issues facing people of color.
The more we communicate with each other about what we are doing, the better we are able to understand both how we can work together and where the gaps in services may be. The Health and Wholeness Advocacy office is a clearinghouse for resources and networking. You are encouraged to communicate with them about any initiatives you are planning and evaluations of your experience. The Local Church Relations office of Global Ministries and our area offices can be very helpful by providing information and guidance on working internationally.
- Communicate your concern that HIV/AIDS should be addressed in your church and community, especially with your elected officials.
- Join the UCC Just Peace Advocacy Network (JPAN) of Justice and Witness Ministries.
- Create or add an HIV/AIDS prevention and education program to your parish nursing program, community health fair or other health-education program.
- Take initiatives to alleviate poverty.
- Advocate comprehensive sex education in public schools.
- Use the "Our Whole Lives" or "Affirming Persons-Saving Lives" curriculum in your congregation. "Our Whole Lives" is a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum developed by the UCC.
- Advocate for easy access to condoms with education materials on their proper use.
- Advocate for a needle exchange program in your community.
- Offer regular HIV testing and counseling in your community.
UCC Global Ministries
Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance
Daily HIV/AIDS reports
Balm in Gilead
Council of Religious AIDS Networks
National Minority AIDS Council
Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS
Centers for Disease Control
The Names Project Foundation
Affirming Persons, Saving Lives
A comprehensive HIV/AIDS curriculum for preschool through adult ages, is available for the cost of shipping (about $12) from United Church Resources at 1-800-537-3394.
DVD Resource: "Coming to Say Goodbye, Stories of AIDS in Africa"
Order the DVD from UCC Resources (1-800-537-3394), get the film and much, much more. "Coming to Say Goodbye, Stories of AIDS in Africa" (Maryknoll Productions) is a documentary about courageous people living with and responding to HIV/AIDS in Kenya and Tanzania. Included in the DVD resource is the film, study helps, the music video "Give Me Hope" as performed by the Sinikithemba HIV Positive Choir of South Africa, and links to a variety of resource-rich web sites. The DVD is produced by AFRUS-AIDS which is a broad-based coalition of global women's networks and faith-based organizations working in partnership with African grassroots women's organizations in the struggle to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The film may also be ordered in VHS format from Maryknoll (film only).
A special disaster fund appeal for HIV/AIDS has been issued from the UCC office of the Global Sharing of Resources (One Great Hour of Sharing) and the Disciples Overseas Ministry (Week of Compassion). This fund is designed to support the HIV/AIDS work of our global mission partners. The area desks of Global Ministries have information on their websites on the significant HIV/AIDS work of our partners and sponsored agencies.