naacp's ben jealous

NAACP Director Ben Jealous

*As the pastor of a mostly African-American Baptist church near Houston, Timothy W. Sloan has known for years that he needed to talk about HIV and AIDS with his congregation, says the Grio.

He worried the 3,000 parishioners at St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Humble, Texas, could be offended and leave the church or curtail their giving.

“On a scale of 1 to 10 it was a 6,” he said of his concerns.

Then, a year and a half ago, he joined a group of pastors organized by the NAACP to write a manual for church leaders like himself on talking to their congregations about a disease that has a disproportionate effect on the black community.

Sloan spoke to his congregation about the issue soon after. They surprised him with a standing ovation.

Now Sloan hopes others can use the manual he helped create to talk to their congregations. The NAACP this month released it and a 61-page activity manual at the group’s convention in Texas.

Shavon Arline-Bradley, the director of health programs for the NAACP, who helped oversee the manual’s creation, said it makes sense for the nation’s largest civil rights organization to be involved in the discussion of HIV and AIDS.

“People look at us as just civil right rights, and what they’re missing is that health is one of the most pressing civil rights issues of our time,” Arline-Bradley said.

Religious leaders who helped with the manual said black churches have been reluctant to talk about the disease. That’s in part because the topic is wrapped up with sex and homosexuality, often taboo topics in the church.

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