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Faith Coordinating Center to host conference on faith, healing, and HIV

Dr. Allison Mathews

Faith Coordinating Center to host  conference on faith, healing, and HIV
May 04
12:55 2022

The Gilead COMPASS Initiative Faith Coordinating Center at Wake Forest University School of Divinity will host a national conference focused on faith, healing and HIV.

The Proclamation at the Intersections Conference will take place in Dallas, Texas, from June 21-23. 

The conference will provide an unprecedented opportunity for interdisciplinary and cross-sectional learning and collaboration between faith leaders, lay ministers, religion scholars, public health scholars, health providers, nonprofit organizational leaders, and graduate students. The conference will feature workshops on how to integrate programming and messages about HIV and faith into spiritually-integrated counseling, community religious education, ministry work, and preaching; how to establish partnerships with medical providers, public health institutions and HIV nonprofit organizations; and how to engage faith leaders in training about HIV, sexuality and health. 

Dr. Allison Mathews, executive director of the Gilead COMPASS Faith Coordinating Center in the School of Divinity at Wake Forest University, said about the upcoming inaugural conference, “In a time when we have assaults on Black and LGBTQ lives in the social and political arenas, we have a responsibility as Black faith communities to stand up for love, justice and healing. This conference is a much needed convening of a cross-section of local and national leaders committed to resourcing Black faith communities to be a part of the solution to ending the HIV epidemic.” 

Mathews, who is originally from Dallas, hopes the conference will be the beginning of a national movement to engage Black faith communities, as the Faith Coordinating Center relaunches the Black Church and HIV: A Social Justice Imperative, originally developed by the NAACP. The Faith Coordinating Center has chosen a new name for the website, “Black Faith and HIV: A Social Justice Imperative II,” to incorporate interfaith perspectives. The initiative will provide a national database of interfaith communities committed to HIV engagement, professional development and training opportunities, and opportunities for networking and partnership.

The conference is one component of the larger work the Faith Coordinating Center is engaged in to address HIV stigma in faith communities in the U.S. South. In the center’s first year they provided nearly $1 million in grant funding to different organizations focused on the mission of equipping faith leaders to engage in HIV work in meaningful ways. Some of the grantees will have their work and achievements highlighted at the conference. Applications are currently open this year for organizations to receive up to $200,000 to continue this mission. 

Along with grantee highlights, the conference’s speaker roster includes preachers, scholars, and activists who will lead workshops ranging from evidence-based faith engagement to building strategic partnerships. Public religious leaders have been invited to lead worship at the conference, including Rev. Dr. Michael Joseph Brown, president of Payne Theological Seminary, and Rev. Dr. Leslie Callahan, pastor at St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Philadelphia.

In addition to speakers and worship leaders, conference attendees can expect to experience various artistic expressions throughout the conference, including music, poetry, and dance. The arts will be woven throughout each day, including a pre-conference forum on gospel music led by Dr. Tony McNeill, to sacred moments of hip-hop and poetry performed by the center’s own Rev. Demi “Day” McCoy.

The National AIDS Memorial Quilt will also be on display, including new panels from the Call My Name project, which features African American faces from the South. The panels were made by faith-based communities to increase the representation of African American people on the quilt who have been impacted by HIV/AIDS.

Rev. Dr. Shonda Jones, principal investigator of the Gilead COMPASS Faith Coordinating Center, said, “The conference gathering is an opportunity to gather pioneers who have helped make significant gains in addressing HIV with faith communities, alongside those who are just discovering how people of faith can help destigmatize HIV and contribute to ending the disease.”  

As the founder of the Faith Coordinating Center, Jones has been instrumental in planning the conference and bringing communities of faith into the HIV conversation. Jones, who is also from Dallas, has worked with the center’s advisory board to ensure that the conference and subsequent efforts are interfaith in scope. She believes “the center is in a unique position to equip faith communities with the tools needed to transform narratives about HIV and leverage our collective power to embrace all persons, test and treat those who are most vulnerable, and promote understandings about the intersections of theological and epidemiological realities that can be barriers to care in Black communities.” 

Those who would like to attend the Proclamation at the Intersections can register to attend the conference in person or virtually at divinity.wfu.edu/PATIConf22. 

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