The Rev. James Favorite, senior pastor of Tampa's Beulah Baptist Institutional Church, serves as chair of the local chapter of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA).
Ten years ago, Favorite said the idea of speaking about sexuality and HIV/AIDS from the pulpit was "not even a consideration." But the disease became more personal when a church member came to Favorite a few years ago concerned about her HIV-positive son, who was afraid of dying and going to hell. Favorite counseled them about God's grace, and he began to rethink his own approach to the disease.
"Before we can save the soul, we have to save the life," Favorite said. "That means education. That means prevention. That has to be our first priority."
NBLCA trains local pastors on ministering with love and without condemnation, said Favorite. So far, roughly 35 area clergy have taken the course. Another is scheduled for July.
Like Favorite, Carlton Burgess felt compelled to act against HIV/AIDS. The songwriter-composer, founder of the Burgess School of the Arts in Ybor City, recruited three friends to sing with him on an inspirational, pop-influenced gospel recording, "Love Never Gives Up." Proceeds from the "Carlton Burgess & Friends" CD benefit HIV/AIDS charities.
"When I wrote the lyrics, I got very emotional, very tearful, remembering all the great people with so much talent who have lost their lives to [AIDS]," said Burgess. "For those who are still living with it, we have to love them unconditionally. We can't be judgmental; we can't throw away people in our society who are dealing with it."
For more information about the July NBLCA training, telephone 813-251-5591. To view a video about Burgess' initiative, visit www2.tbo.com/news/2011/jun/24/2/local-composer-advocates-for-those-with-60214-vi-23041/.