AIDS Awareness Month: The Black Church & HIV

AIDS Awareness Month: The Black Church & HIV


HIV primarily affects white gay men. You can contract HIV by getting tested for the virus that causes AIDS. Active church members aren’t at risk for HIV.

When NAACP researchers spent a year talking with black faith leaders in 11 cities, they found myths like these continue to circulate among their pews and pulpits. Those findings led the nation’s oldest civil rights organization to mount a campaign calling on black churches to speak out about the disease that disproportionately affects African-Americans.

In “The Black Church & HIV: The Social Justice Imperative,” the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People acknowledges that pastors may have reservations about addressing AIDS from the pulpit.

“However, this issue is too great to ignore,” reads a warning in a 24-page “pastoral brief” that accompanies the manual.

“The only way for us to help our congregations is to understand all aspects of HIV, so that we can help our community rebound from the impact of this epidemic.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that one in 16 black men and one in 32 black women will be infected by HIV.

The pastoral brief, sprinkled with Bible verses, includes a “modern-day parable’’ of a minister who tried to “pray the gay” out of a heterosexual man after he received his HIV diagnosis. It later quotes a Houston minister who feared being in the same room with relatives with HIV/AIDS.

The NAACP recommends partnering with health organizations on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. The group compares the church’s need to address HIV to Jesus’ ministry healing the sick and advocating for the oppressed.

“As we make efforts to address the HIV crisis, the Black Church should not be a place where people experience HIV stigma and discrimination, but rather a place of healing, support, and acceptance,” the brief says.

The 66-page manual asks churches to dispel HIV myths and spread the truth. For instance, most black women get HIV through heterosexual sex, and there is no risk for transmission of HIV through testing.

“Regardless of our church activity or engagement, as long as we are having unprotected sex or sharing needles in our communities, we are at risk for contracting HIV,” the manual notes.

The NAACP urges churches to be a “safe space” for HIV prevention and treatment, even if they have to start small: “We understand that incorporating HIV activism into a spiritual setting may be perceived as a difficult process, but it is possible to begin with small steps even in the most conservative environments.”


Webinar: Taking Action This National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Southern Baptist church: Racial prejudice a factor in rejection of black pastor

Southern Baptist church: Racial prejudice a factor in rejection of black pastor

The campus of First Baptist Church Naples in 2014. Video screebgrab via Southwest Florida Television

A prominent Southern Baptist church in southwest Florida has acknowledged that “racial prejudice” was a factor in its congregation’s decision not to appoint a black senior pastor candidate.

Pastor Marcus Hayes, a leader of Biltmore Church in Asheville, North Carolina, received 81% of the vote by “a record 3,818” in attendance Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 26-27) where the “energy and excitement was like nothing we have ever seen before,” according to an email from the pastoral staff of First Baptist Church Naples.

But an 85% vote was needed for approval, based on the church’s constitution, the staff said.

“Last week, through social media, texting, phone calls and emails, racial prejudice was introduced into our voting process,” the staff wrote in the email that was posted on The Baptist Blogger Twitter account.

“Please know that specifically your Pastoral Staff is deeply, deeply grieved,” the staff wrote. “We are grieved for Marcus and Mandy that they had to endure such vileness. We are deeply grieved that the wonderful name of our Lord and the reputation of First Baptist Church Naples was affected by this campaign against Marcus Hayes.”

Hayes, who is married to Mandy Hayes, was being considered to succeed Hayes Wicker, who announced earlier this year his plans to leave his position after 27 years.

The staffers went on to call “anyone who took part in such divisive and sinful actions to immediately confess and repent.”

Hayes, through his assistant, declined an interview. First Baptist Church Naples did not immediately comment further on the situation.

The southwest Florida congregation once included Chuck Colson, the onetime “hatchet man” for Richard Nixon who founded Prison Fellowship after serving seven months in prison as a felon who had pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

Pastor Marcus Hayes preaches at First Baptist Church Naples on Aug. 4, 2019. Video screengrab via FBCN

Hayes is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and previously worked at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, where former SBC President Jack Graham is senior pastor.

Graham told Religion News Service he has seen the email from the pastoral staff and is “very angry” about the outcome of the vote for Hayes, whom he has mentored.

Divisions in the church prior to Hayes’ consideration could have made it difficult to choose any new pastor — Graham said he has joked that even “Billy Graham in his prime” would have had trouble getting an 85% vote.

“However, it appears that there was racism that raised its very ungodly head in the midst of this and some false reports and just slander and flat-out lies regarding Marcus,” said Graham. “You can only conclude that sin, in effect, disrupted this whole process and the call of a good and godly man to be the pastor.”

The Southern Baptist Convention has grappled with race relations for decades before and since it passed a 1995 “racial reconciliation” resolution. That statement, adopted on the 150th anniversary of its founding in defense of slave-holding missionaries, said members of the denomination “lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest.”

The Rev. Dwight McKissic, a Texas pastor who has worked to get Southern Baptists to adopt resolutions condemning white supremacy and repudiating the Confederate flag, called the outcome of the Hayes vote “Shameful!” and tweeted a suggestion that the Naples church should be disfellowshipped from the Southern Baptist Convention.

Graham said he considered the issue a matter for the local church — including possibly removing some of its members — but he doubts the SBC would disfellowship the Florida church under the current circumstances.

“They could do that but I’m sure the Southern Baptist Convention would think twice about that,” he said. “You do have … 3,000-plus members that sit on the right side of this issue.”

Almost 60, Donnie McClurkin says ‘I’m at a time now I sing when I want to’

Almost 60, Donnie McClurkin says ‘I’m at a time now I sing when I want to’

Gospel artist Donnie McClurkin. Photo by Christian Lantry

Two decades ago, gospel singer Donnie McClurkin stepped on a London stage to record his second album.

Now, he’s returning to the United Kingdom for 20th-anniversary concerts on Oct. 18 and 19 to reprise the music of his “Live in London and More” CD that featured songs like “That’s What I Believe” and “We Fall Down.”

The Grammy-winning pastor of Perfecting Faith Church, a Pentecostal congregation in Freeport, N.Y., says he latched onto the popularity of black gospel music that existed overseas long before his 1999 concert.

“People like Andrae Crouch and Edwin Hawkins and the like, they made the music global so it was all a byproduct of the global impact that American gospel had,” he said.

McClurkin, who will turn 60 on Nov. 9 and celebrate with a gospel-star-studded celebration a week later in Jamaica, N.Y., also hosts “The Donnie McClurkin Show.” He features a mixture of new and classic gospel music, interviews and inspirational messages that airs online and in some 60 markets from the U.S. to the United Kingdom to Africa.

He talked to Religion News Service about how Oprah Winfrey boosted his career, the status of his relationship with gospel artist Nicole C. Mullen and how retirement is a ways off.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Donnie McClurkin presents an in memoriam tribute to Andrae Crouch at the BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on June 28, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Why did you decide to record an album in London 20 years ago, which some people might’ve considered an unusual move?

I decided to go to London, which was considered unusual by the record company itself, because of my mentor, the late great Andrae Crouch. He did a musical concert in 1978 in London. That became a landmark. And I always wanted to go to London from the time I knew where England was. And that was my prime opportunity because they gave me a blank check and said you just do an album however you want to do it.

There are certain celebrities who have helped you early in your career. Who are a couple of people that immediately come to mind and what difference did they make?

I was nominal, I was at B-level at best — and Oprah Winfrey got wind of the (1996) CD. She put me on her television show and held up the CD and said, “This is my favorite singer. This is my favorite project.” And we went from 30,000 to 300,000 in a month and then finally went platinum. Then there’s President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton and those kinds of things happened and made it something larger than life.

What were the presidents’ roles? What did they do?

They brought me to their convention, to sing at the (Democratic National Convention), to sing at the (Republican National Convention), opened it up to thousands of people in a room, millions of people around the world and that’s where a lot of attention started coming in.

Is this London concert an unusual singing venture for you now, given you’re pastoring a church and you’re hosting a radio show, or do you continue to perform in concert on other occasions?

I’m over in London just about once a year in concert. Since “Live in London” 20 years ago, I’ve got a very strong base over there, very strong community in England and in Europe period, from Italy to Germany to Holland to the U.K.

And do you sing much in the U.S. as well?

I sing less in the U.S. than I do in Africa and Europe.

You won a Dove Award in 2017 for “The Journey (Live)” and you were recognized in 2001 with a Dove for “We Fall Down” from your “Live in London” album. As the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Awards celebrates its 50th award show next week, what are a couple of main changes you’ve seen in gospel music over that time?

In the GMA, I see a lot of inclusion. For a long time, it was very, very segregated. GMA was for the CCM (contemporary Christian music) and the white gospel singers. And in the last three or four years I’ve seen such an inclusion, integration of black gospel artists along with the contemporary white gospel artists.

Gospel artist and pastor Donnie McClurkin. Photo by Christian Lantry

Do you mean that if you look at the show, if you look at the Dove Awards itself, that there is more integration?

The GMA as a whole, as an organization, not just the awards show but the organization itself. It’s grown and it’s matured and it’s let go of a lot of the institutionalized bias and has become inclusive of our music form, which is — and I probably will get in trouble — but our black music form is the strongest music form in gospel music. It’s what people gravitate to around the world, so “Oh Happy Day,” the whole of our repertoire. It’s been the most marketable. It’s been the most commercial. It’s been the most prominent. It’s apropos that at this point in time we are now sitting with equality at that table as well.

You have described yourself as a victim of childhood sex abuse and when you claimed you had overcome homosexuality, that prompted opposition from gay rights groups. How do you describe yourself now and are you involved in either so-called ex-gay ministries or initiatives that affirm LGBTQ people?

First of all, I’ve never been a part of any ex-gay anything. My past is just that: past. P-a-s-t. It’s gone. Who do I consider myself to be now? I consider myself to be Donnie. A wonderful, old man now — I never thought I’d be calling myself that — who is peaking 60 years old come next month and who has overcome a lot more than sexuality. But that’s been a great part of my life. It is something that I celebrate. I am a part of a church that embraces everybody. I am a pastor of a church that has hetero and homo in it as well. I believe in the love of God that reaches out to everybody, the love of God that is unconditional, the love of God that is not based on ethnicity, it’s not based on denomination, it’s not based on classification.

I believe in the transformative love that only comes through God and that’s what I preach. That’s what I live. That’s what I teach. I have a lot of LGBTQ friends in and out of the church. I’ve got a lot of people that appreciate what I’ve been through and they don’t judge me and I don’t judge them and that’s the way that this is supposed to work. It’s supposed to be a love that is real and genuine, that can accept people for who they are, even if you don’t agree with them.

Gospel artist and pastor Donnie McClurkin. Photo by Christian Lantry

There were reports in recent years of you dating another gospel artist, Nicole C. Mullen. So where does that relationship stand now?

We are great friends. We are very, very great friends.

Is there any thought of retiring from singing or from preaching anytime soon?

In another 10 years (laughs) or maybe 20 years. Singing is something that’s marginal for me now. I do it when I want to do it. I do it when it’s convenient to do it, and I do it when it has a purpose, if it’s going to bring somebody to a greater understanding of who Christ is. I don’t do it just for the entertainment aspect of it any longer. I am selective in what I do. Aretha Franklin told me years ago, “There’s a time when you got to sing and there’s a time when you sing when you want to.” And that makes sense to me now. I’m at a time now I sing when I want to.

Almost 60, Donnie McClurkin says ‘I’m at a time now I sing when I want to’

Almost 60, Donnie McClurkin says ‘I’m at a time now I sing when I want to’

Gospel artist Donnie McClurkin. Photo by Christian Lantry

Two decades ago, gospel singer Donnie McClurkin stepped on a London stage to record his second album.

Now, he’s returning to the United Kingdom for 20th-anniversary concerts on Oct. 18 and 19 to reprise the music of his “Live in London and More” CD that featured songs like “That’s What I Believe” and “We Fall Down.”

The Grammy-winning pastor of Perfecting Faith Church, a Pentecostal congregation in Freeport, N.Y., says he latched onto the popularity of black gospel music that existed overseas long before his 1999 concert.

“People like Andrae Crouch and Edwin Hawkins and the like, they made the music global so it was all a byproduct of the global impact that American gospel had,” he said.

McClurkin, who will turn 60 on Nov. 9 and celebrate with a gospel-star-studded celebration a week later in Jamaica, N.Y., also hosts “The Donnie McClurkin Show.” He features a mixture of new and classic gospel music, interviews and inspirational messages that airs online and in some 60 markets from the U.S. to the United Kingdom to Africa.

He talked to Religion News Service about how Oprah Winfrey boosted his career, the status of his relationship with gospel artist Nicole C. Mullen and how retirement is a ways off.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Donnie McClurkin presents an in memoriam tribute to Andrae Crouch at the BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on June 28, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Why did you decide to record an album in London 20 years ago, which some people might’ve considered an unusual move?

I decided to go to London, which was considered unusual by the record company itself, because of my mentor, the late great Andrae Crouch. He did a musical concert in 1978 in London. That became a landmark. And I always wanted to go to London from the time I knew where England was. And that was my prime opportunity because they gave me a blank check and said you just do an album however you want to do it.

There are certain celebrities who have helped you early in your career. Who are a couple of people that immediately come to mind and what difference did they make?

I was nominal, I was at B-level at best — and Oprah Winfrey got wind of the (1996) CD. She put me on her television show and held up the CD and said, “This is my favorite singer. This is my favorite project.” And we went from 30,000 to 300,000 in a month and then finally went platinum. Then there’s President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton and those kinds of things happened and made it something larger than life.

What were the presidents’ roles? What did they do?

They brought me to their convention, to sing at the (Democratic National Convention), to sing at the (Republican National Convention), opened it up to thousands of people in a room, millions of people around the world and that’s where a lot of attention started coming in.

Is this London concert an unusual singing venture for you now, given you’re pastoring a church and you’re hosting a radio show, or do you continue to perform in concert on other occasions?

I’m over in London just about once a year in concert. Since “Live in London” 20 years ago, I’ve got a very strong base over there, very strong community in England and in Europe period, from Italy to Germany to Holland to the U.K.

And do you sing much in the U.S. as well?

I sing less in the U.S. than I do in Africa and Europe.

You won a Dove Award in 2017 for “The Journey (Live)” and you were recognized in 2001 with a Dove for “We Fall Down” from your “Live in London” album. As the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Awards celebrates its 50th award show next week, what are a couple of main changes you’ve seen in gospel music over that time?

In the GMA, I see a lot of inclusion. For a long time, it was very, very segregated. GMA was for the CCM (contemporary Christian music) and the white gospel singers. And in the last three or four years I’ve seen such an inclusion, integration of black gospel artists along with the contemporary white gospel artists.

Gospel artist and pastor Donnie McClurkin. Photo by Christian Lantry

Do you mean that if you look at the show, if you look at the Dove Awards itself, that there is more integration?

The GMA as a whole, as an organization, not just the awards show but the organization itself. It’s grown and it’s matured and it’s let go of a lot of the institutionalized bias and has become inclusive of our music form, which is — and I probably will get in trouble — but our black music form is the strongest music form in gospel music. It’s what people gravitate to around the world, so “Oh Happy Day,” the whole of our repertoire. It’s been the most marketable. It’s been the most commercial. It’s been the most prominent. It’s apropos that at this point in time we are now sitting with equality at that table as well.

You have described yourself as a victim of childhood sex abuse and when you claimed you had overcome homosexuality, that prompted opposition from gay rights groups. How do you describe yourself now and are you involved in either so-called ex-gay ministries or initiatives that affirm LGBTQ people?

First of all, I’ve never been a part of any ex-gay anything. My past is just that: past. P-a-s-t. It’s gone. Who do I consider myself to be now? I consider myself to be Donnie. A wonderful, old man now — I never thought I’d be calling myself that — who is peaking 60 years old come next month and who has overcome a lot more than sexuality. But that’s been a great part of my life. It is something that I celebrate. I am a part of a church that embraces everybody. I am a pastor of a church that has hetero and homo in it as well. I believe in the love of God that reaches out to everybody, the love of God that is unconditional, the love of God that is not based on ethnicity, it’s not based on denomination, it’s not based on classification.

I believe in the transformative love that only comes through God and that’s what I preach. That’s what I live. That’s what I teach. I have a lot of LGBTQ friends in and out of the church. I’ve got a lot of people that appreciate what I’ve been through and they don’t judge me and I don’t judge them and that’s the way that this is supposed to work. It’s supposed to be a love that is real and genuine, that can accept people for who they are, even if you don’t agree with them.

Gospel artist and pastor Donnie McClurkin. Photo by Christian Lantry

There were reports in recent years of you dating another gospel artist, Nicole C. Mullen. So where does that relationship stand now?

We are great friends. We are very, very great friends.

Is there any thought of retiring from singing or from preaching anytime soon?

In another 10 years (laughs) or maybe 20 years. Singing is something that’s marginal for me now. I do it when I want to do it. I do it when it’s convenient to do it, and I do it when it has a purpose, if it’s going to bring somebody to a greater understanding of who Christ is. I don’t do it just for the entertainment aspect of it any longer. I am selective in what I do. Aretha Franklin told me years ago, “There’s a time when you got to sing and there’s a time when you sing when you want to.” And that makes sense to me now. I’m at a time now I sing when I want to.

After 30 years leading church, Marvin Winans still says ‘music is what I do’

After 30 years leading church, Marvin Winans still says ‘music is what I do’

The Winans group in 1995 included Ronald, from left, Michael, Carvin and Marvin. Photo by Jeffrey Mayer

Thirty years ago, Pastor Marvin Winans was singing with three of his brothers in the gospel group The Winans and touring with his musical play, “Don’t Get God Started,” after its Broadway run.

He also started a church. Beginning with just eight members meeting in the basement of his house in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham, Winans became the pastor of Perfecting Church, a Pentecostal congregation that soon became a place where young adults could develop their spiritual lives.

“The church just begin to grow because we would go into the Dairy Queen, wherever we could find young people, and tell them they need to come to church,” he recalled in an interview Tuesday (Oct. 1) with Religion News Service. “And when they came, they stayed and we grew very fast.”

Pastor Marvin Winans. Photo courtesy of GBP Studio 2

Fast forward three decades and Winans is marking the anniversary of his church, now with 1,800 members in the Motor City, while remaining committed to helping his community through the schools and ministries he has started to help train youth and give women a safe place to live.

For Perfecting Church’s Oct. 11 anniversary gala, Winans, 61, has invited social justice activist Bryan Stevenson to speak. BeBe and CeCe Winans, his singing siblings, also are slated to perform.

To be a Grammy-winning pastor, however, is to live a double life: Though officially retired from singing, Winans still agrees to some requests. Earlier this year, he was featured at the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration and with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s “Gospel Goes Classical” concert.

“What stands out to me about Marvin Winans musically is just the beauty and seemingly effortless vocal technique,” said Bil Carpenter, author of “Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia,” who said the Detroit senior pastor was the “backbone” of The Winans.

“I have been in events or services where he wasn’t on the program. He was just there. Someone handed him the mic. It was as if he had rehearsed. He picks up on other people’s songs and sings them better than they sing them.”

Winans’ skills as an arranger and conductor have also been on display recently: At the start of the July Democratic presidential candidate debate at Detroit’s Fox Theatre, he directed Perfecting Church singers in his new rendition that combined women singing “America the Beautiful” and men singing “Amazing Grace.”

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“All I can tell you is, music is what I do,” he said, describing how, while sitting at the piano and going over the voice parts during a rehearsal, a thought came to him: “Wow, this sounds similarly like ‘Amazing Grace’ and we just split it and had that happen.”

Renee Compton, a choir director at Perfecting Church, was among the singers who watched Winans’ creative process in person and rehearsed several times for the two-and-half-minute performance.

“It’s very intense, but it’s also very good ’cause you actually sit there and you learn and you just see the creative genius of it,” said Compton, who helped found Perfecting Church while in her 20s. “The gift that he has to do that is just absolutely incredible, that he’s able to just put all of that together.”


RELATED: Marvin Winans will add soul to Whitney Houston’s funeral


One of 10 children of Delores “Mom” Winans and David “Pop” Winans, Marvin Winans grew up in a household where gospel music was the only genre allowed to be sung or played. Attendance at his great-grandfather’s Church of God in Christ was a regular practice. He served as a young minister at Shalom Temple, a Holiness church in Detroit and continued his connection with the Pentecostal/Holiness tradition when he started his predominantly black congregation.

Cindy Flowers, the general manager of Perfecting Church, said she became the church’s first employee in July 1989.

“We probably had about 13, 15 members, and I’m thinking, ‘Why do we need staff?’” said Flowers, who also was one of the eight founding members. “But Pastor Winans just has always had a much, much, much bigger vision.”

As the church developed, it moved from Winans’ basement to a hotel to rented church buildings, often meeting in the afternoons after their landlords’ services. Meanwhile, Winans expanded the scope of his work in Detroit. He founded the Winans Academy of Performing Arts in 1997 and developed the Rutherford Winans Academy in 2012. The two public charter schools currently have a total enrollment of more than 600 students, Winans said.

Pastor Marvin Winans. Photo courtesy of GBP Studio 2

He also started the Amelia Agnes Transitional Home for Women in an upscale Detroit suburb after a woman in his church told Winans she was living with a man who was not her husband but was helping care for her children.

“We don’t believe in folk shacking and living with folk that are not their husband legally or wife legally,” said Winans. “And that struck me, and the Holy Spirit said, ‘You cannot only tell them what to do. You have to offer an alternative.’”

Since the transitional home opened in 2001, it has housed about 50 single women and mothers, some who have been referred from homeless shelters and some who have been in abusive situations. It is named after Winans’ mother and the mother of his ex-wife, Vickie Winans, who had a total of 22 children.

The home’s clients occupy one of five family suites while they pursue employment and education opportunities and gain parenting and financial tips, said VeronCia Compton, executive director of the Perfecting Community Development Corporation, which includes the home among its programs. Some have completed nursing programs and master’s degrees.

In 2017, Winans opened Perfecting Church Toledo, which has more than 150 members at its Ohio location. On Sundays and some weekdays, he travels the hour-and-a-half drive between Toledo and Detroit to preach and meet with members.

Though the Detroit church listed 4,500 members on its website as of this week, Flowers said a recent “reregistration” of its members indicated about 1,800.

“Church is a little different during these times: People say, ‘You’re still my pastor’ but they’re inactive, they’ve moved. They’re out of town,” Winans said, when asked about the recount. “What we want to do is make sure we’re ministering to those who are not just in word saying, ‘I’m a member of the church,’ but are active in the church.”

One former member sued Winans in 2018 after accusing him of unfair labor practices.

Lakaiya Harris, a former housekeeping employee, claimed, among other things, that Winans required her as a member of the church to tithe on her gross earnings. Her suit alleges that when she refused, Winans fired her.

“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Winans said when asked about Harris’ claims. “That’s being taken up in the court. I’ll leave it at that.”

Winans said the anniversary gala will help raise money for the transitional home as well as for a new edifice that has long been under construction on a 20-acre campus in Detroit. After it opens, he hopes to be consecrated as bishop of Perfecting Fellowship International, a network including more than a dozen churches in the U.S., the U.K. and South Africa.

He said it’s fitting to have Stevenson, a lawyer who works to exonerate wrongly convicted prisoners, as the speaker for his church’s anniversary. Winans said he has visited the museum and lynching memorial Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative opened in Montgomery, Alabama, last year.

“We want to stand on the side of justice equality,” Winans said. “We want to stand against the inequalities of our people. And that doesn’t make me a civil rights preacher. It just makes me a preacher that understands the importance of civil rights.”