The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The United Methodist Church have formed a partnership to collaborate on strategy and projects that will focus on reducing stigma and discrimination experienced by people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.
“This epidemic must be addressed by the church through education, awareness, capacity building and stigma reduction,” said Dr. Ulysses Burley, program associate, ELCA strategy on HIV and AIDS.
Burley shared the ELCA’s efforts to combat HIV and AIDS during the February meeting of the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund Committee at the Hollywood United Methodist Church in Hollywood, Calif. Burley told those gathered that “while 37.4 million people are infected worldwide, in the U.S. 44 percent of persons currently living with HIV and AIDS and 44 percent of the newly infected are African American.”
“At the end of the three-day meeting we affirmed a new way forward together. The United Methodist Church Global AIDS Committee voted to adopt the stated goals of the ELCA’s HIV and AIDS Strategy,” said Burley.
The ELCA’s goals include stopping the spread of the epidemic through prevention, treatment and care; eliminating the stigma experienced by those who are HIV-positive; and reducing the conditions of poverty that contribute to the spread of the disease.
“As the ELCA and United Methodist Church continue the journey of putting full communion into operation on the ground in ministries which expand our capacity, this joint HIV and AIDS partnership can be a tremendous inspiration and aspiration,” said the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, executive director for ELCA congregational and synodical mission. “We hope that it will be a blessing for so many with the HIV virus and their loved ones. It is what a church committed to following Jesus through the cross to the empty tomb does in this world.” |
The ELCA and The United Methodist Church have been full communion partners since 2009. Full communion is not a merger between denominations. It is a relationship based on common confessing of the Christian faith and mutual recognition of Baptism and sharing of the Lord’s Supper. The churches worship together and may exchange clergy.
The ecumenical officer of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, retired Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, welcomed 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.” Affirming the ELCA’s strategy, Swenson noted that The United Methodist Church has many congregations in the southern U.S. where the ELCA is less concentrated and HIV and AIDS is most concentrated. Swenson and Burley emphasized these are “the areas where the need for faith-based AIDS ministry is greatest, particularly ministry that would reach people of color.”
“Our full communion partnership is seen at its best in this sort of collaboration; we can build on our complementary strengths in order to accomplish in mission what neither of us could do on our own,” said Kathryn Johnson, director, ELCA ecumenical and inter-religious relations.
More information about the ELCA’s HIV and AIDS Ministry is available at ELCA.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/HIV-AIDS-Ministry.