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Spreading the ‘Gospel Against AIDS’

By |2004-02-26T09:00:00-05:00February 26th, 2004|Uncategorized|

DETROIT – When a friend asked Rosalind Andrews Worthy to take place in AIDS Walk Detroit nearly a decade ago, Gospel Against AIDS wasn’t so much as a glimmer in her eye. But when she went to a local church to ask for a donation, she quickly saw the need for such an organization.
“The church I went to told me I was out of my mind and there was no way they were going to be involved,” Worthy recalled, herself not much more educated than they were at the time. “Just like everyone else, I was under the misconception that this had nothing to do with me. Then I met Audrey White, a grandmother who was HIV-positive. She didn’t fit the profile and she told me that I was going to start this program and that she was going to help me. She was my biggest inspiration.”
Soon enough, Worthy was busy inspiring others. She applied to the Michigan AIDS Fund and presented them with a plan to educate churches on AIDS, launching GAA with a service at Marvin Winans’ Perfecting Church.
“I developed a goal for the number of churches to reach in the first year,” she said. “And within three months I had met that target goal and it had taken on a life of its own.”
Initially, Worthy offered trainings exclusively to the church community.
“But our outreach has gone so far beyond that,” she said. “We now go into correctional facilities, juvenile assessment centers, transitional housing, shelters, wherever there is a need.”
Churches, however, have remained the primary goal, and last year Worthy and her team trained 200 pastors alone. GAA also co-wrote a training manual for pastors with the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta and at Detroit’s Ecumenical Theological Society, GAA’s curriculum is a requirement for doctorate level seminarians.
But you need not be a church, or even go to one, to benefit from GAA’s services.
“We are faith based in that everyone who works for the program believes in God,” said Worthy. “However, we don’t align ourselves with any theological belief because Jesus was not about theology. I believe, and everyone who works for the program believes, that we can love you and meet you right where you are at. I think some of the religious leaders who are so steeped in religion forget that Jesus met people right where they were. You cannot bring information to people unless you can love them right where they are without judgment.
“As I’ve always said, HIV and AIDS is the great equalizer,” Worthy continued. “It doesn’t know theology, it doesn’t know economics. It’s unfortunate that we as a society have to learn our lesson this way, but I have seen AIDS bring together people from all backgrounds to work for a common cause.”
It’s a powerful message and one that Worthy is spreading across the world through GAA’s international arm, Global Research Educate and Training Networks or GREATNESS, as it’s called. A former simultaneous translator with the United Nations, Worthy, who has three degrees in French, has seen her curriculum translated into five languages. A recent collaboration with the First Baptist Church of Haiti resulted in Worthy traveling to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to give trainings in French, and a trip to mainland Haiti is in the works.
“So while at first glance it would appear that my educational and professional background have nothing to do with GAA, that’s not the case,” she said. “Also, I’m aided by just a sensitivity to people and the realization that we are all connected.”
It’s that realization that has helped her effectively reach out to the LGBT community. Worthy is quick to confirm that gospel or not, she has no problem with gays.
“How could I?” she asked. “I can’t judge anyone. My role on this earth is not to judge because I wouldn’t want anyone judging me. Mostly, in the people I see, I see so much hurt and pain and dejection that the last thing I would want to do is add to that. I make it very clear that this is a health issue. We’ve yet to have a pastor in any form approach me and say ‘we don’t want this in our church because this is a gay disease.’ I never give that any energy, so it never comes up.”
Which is not to say that there aren’t still some pastors who may believe that.
“The assumption that everyone is educated about this is false,” said Worthy. “You still have people who have the same mindset they did 10 years ago. Educating people is the key. When they know better, they do better.”
Until then, Worthy said folks should not be discouraged.
“I would encourage people not to give up on God,” she said. “Don’t let the church leaders get between you and your relationship with God. We need to think about what is going on worldwide and make some decisions about who we want to lead this country. Divide and conquer has always been an effective means of keeping the focus off of devastating issues.
“AIDS is the great equalizer,” Worthy continued. “However it was intended, manmade or not, it is doing what we’ve never been able to do. It’s here, it’s spreading daily and we can control these things. The reason that Gospel Against AIDS has gotten to the point that it has is that I have persistence. My husband calls it something else, but I could not rest thinking that the leadership of the church would let people die, that this was going on in their pews and in their choirs and they wanted to remain silent. It may be na•ve, but I believe there is a goodness in everyone. I think the cure to AIDS lies in the church. I don’t think it lies within these pharmaceutical companies. It lies within us and what lies within us is our compassion. How much are we willing to love somebody? The Bible simply says ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’ It doesn’t say ‘love thy neighbor if they have the same sexual orientation as you.’ It says ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’ What could be more simple than that? I may be very na•ve but I believe it to mean just that.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.