Why is United Methodist Women’s $50k gift to the Trevor Project such a big deal?

Category: Technology

I too celebrate the grant from United Methodist Women. The former Women’s Division now United Methodist Women have had a long journey in regard to LGBT people. I8888 have donated in the past to the Trevor Project and have friends who are/have been on its board.

You are correct that the funding ban of 1976 has done damage as it was intended to do by its authors, who wanted to rein in the national agencies and other United Methodist individuals and organizations that were moving forward with full inclusivity. You are incorrect that the paragraph blocked funding for AIDS ministry, advocacy and education before 1988. In fact, what we did between 1988 and 2000 was stellar. Here is a timeline featuring information about the United Methodist and ecumenical responses through the year 2000 https://web.archive.org/web/20060223145119fw_/http://gbgm-umc.org/health/aids/timeline.stm

In this post, I provide further documentation of the United Methodist response funded by national funds prior to 1988. For the USA AIDS statistics, I rely upon AMFAR’s timeline at https://www.amfar.org/thirty-years-of-hiv/aids-snapshots-of-an-epidemic/
Another important timeline is

This is not to deny that some misused the funding ban adopted in 1976 to block or try to block funding of AIDS ministries. The reason that the statement about AIDS was added in 1988 to the section on funding was not to “lift the ban” but to CLARIFY that advocacy, ministry, and education about HIV/AIDS and people with AIDS was not to be considered advocacy for LGBT people. One of the errors health officials made early on was to call the new immune disorder GRID – Gay-related immune disorder… It helped put into people’s minds that it was a disease of “Gays.” One of the biggest theological issues we were dealing with then was so many were claiming that AIDS was God’s punishment of gay people. The work Global Ministries did, the materials we produced, the statements we made brought immeasurable comfort to people with AIDS and their families.


The earliest responses were in Annual Conferences, of course: In 1983 a few passed resolutions on AIDS. “Rocky Mountain and California-Nevada were the first to speak out. In 1983, the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference voted to “commit ourselves to greater understanding of AIDS, demonstrating through prayer and action, each in our own way, a ministry of caring concern to the victims of the new deadly disease.” … In 1984, the North Georgia and New York annual conferences adopted resolutions on AIDS. North Georgia called for “a ministry of love and comfort and reconciliation and salvation witness.” New York resolved that the conference, ‘its organizations and local churches seek our ways it can be in ministry with people with AIDS, their families, and friends.’ ” ( From “Growing in Compassion” by Nancy A. Carter New World Outlook, January 1985– see also the UM timeline)

1984 was still very early in the crisis. Folk were dying quickly after diagnosis. It was a scary time. The 1983 U.S. year- statistics were: 2,807 reported; 2,118 deaths. In May 1984, General Conference did not adopt any resolutions It did, however, refer a petition from the California-Nevada Annual Conference to the General Board of Church and Society. https://web.archive.org/web/20060223145119fw_/http://gbgm-umc.org/health/aids/timeline.stm

1984 marked the first time the HIV antivirus was isolated. 1984 was also the first time the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) in New York City published its first safer sex guidelines. People, even those concerned like GMHC, were trying to just get a hold of what was happening and what should be done. http://www.gmhc.org/about-us/gmhchivaids-timeline

Though early in the health crisis, The United Methodist Church at national agency level was moving in an affirmative direction. 1984 marked a concerted effort to response to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

“At its annual meeting in October, 1984 the Health and Welfare Ministries Program Department of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church adopted a position paper on AIDS and the Compassionate Ministry of the Church, dealing with such areas as research and health education, local church ministries, and concern for human and civil rights. Staff of the department was asked to get involved in four areas:

* monitoring and making available information about the level of funding to develop a vaccine against AIDS and to carry out a program of public health education.
* preparing educational and ministry resources to assist congregations.
* investigating ways to reduce the widespread ignorance and fear that lead to violations of civil rights of persons with AIDS.
* consulting with annual conferences, health and welfare institutions, and others in order to determine ways in which the human and civil rights of AIDS patients are jeopardized and advising steps to remedy this.” (From “Growing in Compassion” by Nancy A. Carter New World Outlook, January 1985)

The US year-end statistics for 1984 were 7,239 cases of AIDS reported; 5,596 deaths. NOTE: there was no Internet or social media then. When we received by US mail these statistics, it could be as late as mid-year in the next year. First, the CDC had to compile them, then print them, then mail them.


In February, the General Board of Discipleship adopted a statement “Ministry in the Midst of the AIDS Epidemic,” which said in part: “We applaud those local United Methodist churches who have already undertaken such ministries on our behalf. We also confess that we as a total church have not always responded lovingly in the midst of this epidemic in part because of deeply held fears and prejudices. We ask God’s forgiveness in this regard.” In April, The General Board of Global Ministries adopted an extensive paper, “Statement on the Church as a Healing Community and the AIDS Crisis.” It included theological background, facts about AIDS, statistics, and several recommendations. In September, the Board of Church and Society concurred with it. https://web.archive.org/web/20060223145119fw_/http://gbgm-umc.org/health/aids/timeline.stm

Just the other day, I found the materials for the groundbreaking National United Methodist Consultation on AIDS, which was held November 12-15, 1986 in San Francisco. The box was sitting right in the open for me to see, in a room ruled by chaos. I took that as a sign to write again in response to your blog. Over 400 people, including me, attended that consultation, which was planned jointly by the Boards of Global Ministries, Discipleship, and Church and Society. Cathie Lyons, then assistant general secretary of the Health and Welfare Ministries Department of Global Ministries directed the consultation. Bishop Leontine TC Kelly welcomed us and inspired us. In fact, she reached out to bring the convocation there.

I mentioned in an earlier post that the National Council of Churches AIDS Task Force, which was created in January 1986. I was a member of it. Cathie and Chris Cowap (NCCC) were the leaders. In June, a delegation from the NCCC task force, including Cathie Lyons, met, at his invitation, with the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop, for 80 minutes. in July 1986 it sent him a seven-page document highlighting our concerns about the needs for “effective, comprehensive, coordinated community-based social and health human services” and seven other concerns that I won’t list here due to space. The seventh point was for the protection of human and civil rights. (I am looking at the document right now). Later in 1986, the Surgeon General sent an AIDS education booklet to EVERY HOUSEHOLD in the United States. At the end of the document, contact information for the NCCC AIDS Task Force is listed. This simple listing was a tremendous Christian witness given the “AIDS is God’s judgment on gays” tenor of the times … https://www.hiv.gov/blog/in-memoriam-c-everett-koop (there is a link to the PDF on that web page).

So 1986 was a milestone year for United Methodist action in regard to AIDS ministry. Obviously, something like the consultation took a lot of work and planning and United Methodist national dollars. For sure, this work was not easy given the climate of the times. Such work could and did come at a personal and professional cost for the courageous individuals who took on this work at local, conference, and national levels of The United Methodist Church.

The 1986 AIDS consultation brought people together mostly from around the United States, helped to enable networking, and gave a basis for the 1988 resolution on AIDS that was adopted by General Conference.

U.S. YEAR-END STATISTICS for 1986: 28,712 cases of AIDS reported to date, 24,559 deaths


The resolution that General Conference adopted in 1988 “AIDS and the Healing Ministry of the Church” originated from the Board of Global Ministries and, as I recall, was endorsed by the boards of Church and Society and Discipleship.
It became the basis of expanded AIDS ministry, education, and advocacy in The United Methodist Church. An official interagency AIDS task force was initiated.

The resolution also became the basis of a new program originating from Global Ministries called “A Covenant to Care.” Local churches were invited to join the network. A Covenant to Care congregation publicly declared that people with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones are welcome in all facets of the church’s life, leadership and ministry. https://web.archive.org/web/20051018203724/http://gbgm-umc.org/programs/hiv/covenant.stm

1989 marked the launch of “A Covenant to Care” including a very important series of documents “AIDS Focus Papers.” Again, since there was no Internet or social media, these papers were mailed free of charge to any individual or organization who requested them. Ten papers were published that year: They are listed here: https://web.archive.org/web/20060223145119fw_/http://gbgm-umc.org/health/aids/timeline.stm Many of these papers are still online with the Wayback Machine. For example,
“Living With AIDS: A Personal Story” by Terry Boyd
AID Caregiving (multiple authors)

In 1990, five more Focus Papers were published (and there were other materials I have not listed). Also about forty people participated in a conference “AIDS and the Role of the Church” in Kinshasa, Zaire. The conference, conducted entirely in French, was a cooperative effort between The United Methodist Church of Zaire and Health and Welfare Ministries, GBGM. In addition to focusing on care for persons and families living with AIDS, the participants discussed the church’s role in prevention and education.

In 1992, GBGM and the Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches in Latin America (CIEMAL) held two major consultations on HIV/AIDS ministries in São Paulo and Recife, Brazil.

1993 saw the creation of ANIN, the Council of NATIONAL RELIGIOUS AIDS NETWORKS, upper/lower case intentional. Read about it on https://web.archive.org/web/20060223145119fw_/http://gbgm-umc.org/health/aids/timeline.stm Of course, there was United Methodist participation and leadership.

On June 10, 1993, CAM (Computerized AIDS Ministries) a ground-breaking free dial-up electronic bulletin board service (BBS) was launched. Again, this was before electronic communications as we know them today. Prodigy, Compuserve, and AOL (newly renamed from Quantum) were around. I was the sysop for this BBS. When Cathie asked me to come on as a consultant to run it, she said to me, “You know the church, you know about GBGM, you know about AIDS ministry, … you can learn the rest.” Here is an article “Welcoming Angels” about CAM that was published in New World Outlook and describes the incredible ministry it had for a short period of time (a few years) until affordable online communications became more accessible to people with AIDS and their families https://web.archive.org/web/20060205075056/http://gbgm-umc.org/cam/camangel.html
One secular reporter dubbed us “The Electronic Church on the Information Super Highway.”

I am going to stop here. The links I have provided give more information about United Methodist response to the AIDS crisis. I have only scratched a little deeper than the surface.

Why is United Methodist Women’s $50k gift to the Trevor Project such a big deal?