A Time to Speak

The pastor of Cleveland’s Antioch Baptist Church exhorts his colleagues to recognize how AIDS is affecting the African-American community. AIDS is now the leading cause of death among black women aged 25 – 34, and black teenagers are disproportionately represented among new AIDS cases.

Black churches are not generally allies on GLBT causes, and McMickle acknowledges that the early association of AIDS with gay sex still influences black congregations’ response to the pandemic. He recognizes further that statistics simply do not motivate the black church community the way a Biblical mandate does. His observations may help GLBT persons outside the black community understand how the moral authority of the Bible—with its promise that God’s justice will eventually prevail—was a profound source of strength during the civil rights movement, and is equally important to black churches today. AIDS ministries will only be supported by black congregations if they are shown to be compatible with Biblical teachings.

In making his case, McMickle focuses on Jesus responding with touch and healing to a man with leprosy, another highly contagious disease that made its sufferers into social outcasts. He also speaks candidly about the skepticism his own church faced while developing AIDS ministries. Their perseverance, he concludes, was made possible by “a direct appeal to the authority of scripture as a source of compassion and not condemnation.”

A Time to Speak is recommended, with the caveat that many gay readers will probably not be drawn to it, as they’ll be able to tell from the title that it is addressing a specific audience.

Reviewed by, Ruth Ann Jones
Special Collections Cataloger
Michigan State University Libraries

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