The Most for the Least
The United Methodist Global AIDS Committee Summer Newsletter 2023
A Word from Bishop Julius C. Trimble, Chair of the United Methodist Global AIDS Committee
The words of Jesus to his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew remind us that when we serve those in need, we are serving Christ himself.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me,’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matt 25:35-40)
Often, when we use the saying “serving God,” we may think of being used by God or working for God. The interesting thing about this scripture from Matthew is that Jesus describes “serving God” as though God is the one we are directly serving. He says we fed, clothed, visited who? GOD.
This certainly is a challenging scripture isn’t it? What Jesus says is that when we look at those in need, we are looking at Jesus. That changes things doesn’t it? I mean, if we heard a voice asking us for change and turned around and saw God, how might we respond? It’s easy to dismiss a person, but much harder to dismiss the person of God, amen?
If we truly saw God, could we ignore his cries for help? Could we walk away? Could we hold tight to what is rightfully ours and simply carry on with our daily lives?
Likewise, how might we respond those who suffer from HIV and AIDS if we look at them and see Christ staring back at us? Perhaps in seeing Christ, we might do more to ease their suffering.
There is much work to be done if we are to rid the world of HIV and AIDS. The United Methodist Global AIDS Committee is dedicated to serve Christ in this mission. Will you? Be encouraged!
Spotlight on the Caribbean
The Caribbean is the second most-affected region in the world after Africa, with an HIV prevalence of 1.6%. There were 330,000 people living with HIV in the Caribbean at the end of 2005. Around 22,000 were children under the age of 15. Adult women make up 51% of the total number of people living with HIV in the region.
An estimated 37,000 people became newly infected with HIV in 2005. AIDS is the leading cause of death among adults aged 15-44 and claimed an estimated 27,000 lives in 2005. Overall less than one in four (23%) of people in need of antiretroviral therapy were receiving treatment in 2005.
HIV infection levels have decreased in urban parts of Haiti and have remained stable in neighboring Dominican Republic. Expanded access to antiretroviral treatment in the Bahamas and Barbados appears to be reducing AIDS deaths. (Source: UNAIDS)
UMGAC Coordinator Rev. Dr. Sunny Farley (left) visits with Rev. Alison Carter of Holetown Methodist Church on a recent visit to Bridgetown, Barbados. The island nation is making strides toward reducing the number of AIDS deaths, according to the United Nations.
Meet United Methodist Global Aids Committee Member Kathleen Griffith
Kathleen Griffith is the team lead and a senior technical advisor for the United Methodist Church Global Ministries’ Global Health unit. The unit is responsible for implementing the Abundant Health Initiative for the denomination’s current Global Health focus.
The team works primarily with central conference health networks, increasing staff capacity, infrastructure and supply systems. In addition, they implement preventive and curative interventions to help manage major health concerns, such as infectious disease, malaria, HIV and AIDS, and high maternal, newborn and child (MNCH) mortality rates.
Kathleen was born and raised in Zimbabwe. She is a nurse/midwife who first practiced in Southern Africa and then worked as an MNCH program manager in Central Asia for 10 years. She moved permanently to the United States in 2008, working with Global Ministries for much of the time since then, and lives in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
Etta Mae Mutti remembered for AIDS activism
By David Burke, Content Specialist, Great Plains Conference UMC
Bishop Fritz Mutti and his wife, Etta Mae, arrived in the Kansas East and West conferences in 1992, not long after the loss of two of their sons, both to AIDS. “They made no secret of that – in fact they led with that,” recalled retired Great Plains Conference treasurer Rev. Gary Beach, whom Bishop Mutti later appointed Flint Hills District superintendent and later director of connectional ministries. “They made themselves very vulnerable, but it improved the perception of people who had AIDS, people who were gay. Thirty-one years ago, the world was a different place,” he added. “She was fierce when it came to AIDS issues.”
The couple’s oldest son, Tim, died of AIDS in December 1990; their middle son, Fred, died of the disease in September 1991. (A third son, Marty, died unexpectedly from non-AIDS related causes in 2018.) “Etta Mae and Fritz both told that story with courage and conviction,” said the Rev. Jack Gregory, who served on the Kansas East cabinet under Bishop Mutti. “Through that whole experience they really began to work hard on the Global AIDS Project, and that project continues.”
Bishop Fritz and Etta Mae Mutti at the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon where they spoke about AIDS. UMNS file photo
The couple served as coordinators of the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund. “They became advocates for the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church,” Gregory added.
The Muttis wrote a book about their experiences, titled “Dancing in a Wheelchair: One Family Faces HIV/AIDS.” They wrote an essay for ministrymatters.com in 2011 about losing their two eldest sons and the grace shown by friends and parishioners:“Throughout this roller coaster life-and-death ride, friends and church members were there to hold our hands, allow us to pour out our feelings, offer food as a source of comfort, and pray with and for us. As we struggled with the fear of having our sons judged and ostracized, we told our story to only a few friends. When we told more and more people, we found there was much more openness and support than we had anticipated,” they wrote.
“As we flew back and forth to Atlanta and New York, we were offered credit cards, money for prescriptions, and companionship. Rented cars and restaurant meals were provided for us while we stayed in New York to be with Fred,” the essay continued. “As we grieved after the funerals, people made available to us a condo for a retreat place. We were also asked if we needed someone to help hold the charge conferences that Fritz needed to conduct. We were told that Hawaiian lei had been placed on the ocean in memory of Fred and a tree had been planted in memory of Tim. All of these acts of kindness and love warmed our hearts and made our grief become more bearable.” “Through her life” Gregory said, “Etta Mae tempered her conviction with grace.”
That included up to this year, when the United Methodist Church they were attending voted to disaffiliate. Although her husband is a member of the Council of Bishops and cannot be the member of an individual church, she transferred her membership two days after the vote. She explained to the pastor that while she liked him, Gregory said, but she supported LGBTQ inclusion in church.
Rev. Marilyn Gregory, Jack’s wife, was also in Bishop Mutti’s cabinet. Both of them spoke highly of Etta Mae’s hospitality during holiday dinners, which continued into the Muttis’ retirement. They hosted the Gregorys at John Knox Village, procuring a private room with their own server.
“When she was no longer able to prepare a meal for people, she still was making sure the table was set for her friends,” Marilyn said. “She was good and generous to us as individuals and many in the annual conference.”
Marilyn Gregory also praised Etta Mae Mutti’s craft skills. “She was a talented person with a needle. Her cross-stitch works were not just tree ornaments, they were pictures you would hang on a wall,” Marilyn said. “She did very careful, beautiful work.”
Etta Mae Mutti, who married the future bishop in 1959, died June 7, 2023 at the couple’s retirement home at John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. She was 84.
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Lord, we thank you for the opportunity to serve you. Help us to see you as we minister to those who are suffering from HIV and AIDS. Help us to do all we can to put an end to this virus. Give us strength to persevere in love. Amen