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AIDS, Activism, and American Christianity: A Conversation

AIDS, Activism, and American Christianity: A Conversation

On Thursday, May 5, 2022, LGBTQ-RAN hosted a conversation about Christian activism during the HIV/AIDS crisis, featuring three leaders who have been at the forefront of AIDS work since the 1980s. Discussion focused on the questions: What challenges has the AIDS crisis presented, especially for leaders of religious communities that welcome queer people and people of color? How have progressive Christian leaders responded to the emerging and ongoing pandemic? And what work is left to be done?

Anthony Petro, Ph.D. is a historian of religion and sexuality at Boston University and the author of After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion (published by Oxford University Press). Petro also founded and directs the Boston University Health Humanities Project.

Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder, a San Francisco native, has served her call through prophetic action and ministry for justice for over thirty years. The call to “blend proclamation, worship, service, and advocacy on behalf of those most marginalized in church and in society” led to the founding of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ in 1991. In 2003, Rev. Dr. Flunder was consecrated Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, a multi-denominational coalition of over 100 primarily African American Christian leaders and laity. She is a graduate of the Pacific School of Religion and received her Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary. She is also an award-winning gospel music artist and author of Where the Edge Gathers: A Theology of Homiletic and Radical Inclusion.

Rev. Canon Ted Karpf is a pioneer in the both faith community and community-based public health responses to HIV/AIDS and other health challenges since 1983.  From 2004-2011 he was Partnerships Officer for faith-based and civil society engagement in the Office of the Director General at the World Health Organization, where he pioneered research on faith-based community services and public health responses globally.  Canon Karpf was an Episcopal missionary in the 10-million member Anglican Church of Southern Africa as Provincial Canon for HIV/AIDS and Deputy to the Archbishop of Cape Town.  Ted served three years in the US Public Health Service as a HIV/AIDS Liaison Specialist.  He has served as a parish priest and administrator in the Episcopal Church and Anglican communion as a member of the Diocese of Washington, DC.  

Rev. Dr. Steve Pieters, perhaps best known as the gay pastor with AIDS Tammy Faye Bakker interviewed in 1985, was the Field Director for the Metropolitan Community Churches’ AIDS Ministry from 1987 through 1997. He has been an MCC clergyperson since 1979, and has served MCC’s in Chicago, Hartford, North Hollywood, and Los Angeles.