The 27th General Synod of the United Church of Christ called the whole denomination to significant engagement in HIV prevention when it overwhelmingly approved the resolution, "Calling for Comprehensive HIV Prevention in Church and Community" at their meetings last week in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The resolution grounds the action in the call to follow the teachings and example of Jesus' life and ministry, and urges both church and community to a new and higher level of HIV awareness, competency and service. It calls on all clergy and lay persons in all settings of the United Church of Christ to: become knowledgeable about HIV and AIDS; understand how HIV is transmitted and work to prevent infection. It challenges the church to reduce stigma and discrimination, and to work to increase HIV competency throughout the faith community. The resolution also strongly urges everyone in the United Church of Christ to know their HIV status, and calls on all settings of the church, particularly the local church, to develop and implement best practice comprehensive HIV prevention programs with particular attention to vulnerable groups and at risk populations.
UCAN, Inc., the United Church of Christ HIV & AIDS Network, which helped to author the resolution, is charged with the responsibility to implement the resolution in collaboration with Wider Church Ministries, and to make progress reports to the next 3 General Synods. UCAN, Inc. has already been working to provide the needed resources and assistance local churches, pastors and others for comprehensive HIV prevention.
In testimony supporting the resolution, Oliver W. Martin, III, President of UCAN, Inc., told delegates, "Every 9 ½ minutes, someone's brother, mother, sister, father, or neighbor is infected with HIV." He added, "Since the advent of anti-retroviral drugs, there has been a growing complacency among the public, including the church, regarding the severity of the virus. This has been accompanied by the misperception of HIV as a chronic disease, manageable with anti-retroviral drug therapies."
In a poignant demonstration of the response called for in the resolution, Martin said that with 33 million people infected with HIV on planet earth, everyone on the planet is living with HIV. He then asked everyone living with HIV to stand up in response and the whole room stood. He told them, "This is the level of response that is required if we are going to stop the spread of HIV and provide the care and support everyone needs."
To read the resolution, click here or paste the following link into your browser: http://www.ucc.org/health/hivaids/uccpolicy.html
The General Synod of the United Church of Christ is the national representative body of the denomination and is composed of about 900 delegates. The delegates are local church members who come from the UCC's 38 Conferences and the Boards of the national Covenanted Ministries.
Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer
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