Pictured from left to right: Dr. Don Messer and Linda Bales Todd of the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund and Dr. Ulysses Burley of the ELCA's HIV/AIDS Ministry.
From The United Methodist Global AIDS Fund Committee
HOLLYWOOD, California: The United Methodist Global AIDS Fund and The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s HIV and AIDS Ministry have forged a partnership to collaborate on strategy and projects intended to reduce discrimination of persons infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.
"Stigma continues to prevail around the globe, inhibiting persons from getting tested and treated," declared United Methodist Global AIDS Fund Committee (UMGAF) co-chairs, Linda Bales Todd and Donald E. Messer. "Too often the church fuels this stigma by moralistic judgments and shunning infected persons and their families. Welcoming AIDS ministries sponsored by the church are urgently needed."
Meeting at Hollywood United Methodist Church in Hollywood, California, a congregation that has an AIDS red ribbon prominently displayed on its bell tower, the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund Committee (UMGAF) voted to find ways to form an alliance with the ELCA Strategy on HIV and AIDS, strengthening the efforts of both denominations.
ELCA AIDS Program Director, Ulysses Burley, challenged the UMGAF committee by pointing out that some 37.4 million people are infected worldwide, and that in the United States 44% of persons infected are African-American. "This epidemic," says Burley, "must be addressed by the church through programs of education, awareness, capacity building, and stigma reduction."
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, ecumenical officer of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, noted that the ELCA is in full communion with United Methodists. She hailed the new agreement, saying, "If we are to champion global health and address diseases of poverty, then we must move beyond denominational silos to find ecumenical and interreligious approaches to ending AIDS in our lifetime."