Let the Real Healing Begin
A Call to Dialogue by the Bridges-Across Steering Committee

Romer Commission Report 

Steering Committee 

Appendix A:  "Justice and Respect: Our position and direction" 

Appendix B:  "The Bible and Dialogue" 

AIDS Support

Carla Harshman is the director of Vital Signs, a ministry in Traverse City, Michigan. She was a panelists at the workshop that Bridges-Across presented at the March, 1998 Midwest Regional GLSEN Conference. 

Carla Harshman, September, 1998:

Had a great time with my gay AIDS volunteer pals at an AIDS walk in
Traverse City yesterday. I will be doing some lunch dates to see what we can do to better the relationship between the conservative church and the gay community.

There are many in the conservative church here who would love to be involved with volunteering with AIDS patients, but are fearful of the pro-gay rhetoric and that they will be attacked for being a conservative Christian. I have friends who have been in that boat. I was saddened. These were not people who were anti-gay. Some of them have gay friends, but the aura of the organization caused them to decide it wasn't worth it. Maggie, you know me, and not much scares me off, but I am not the typical Cc.

It is true that not much scares Carla off and she’s not a typical conservative Christian. Carla is the director of an Exodus affiliate and she’s on the board of a local AIDS agency.  The following excerpt is from her B-A intro. 

Carla Harshman:

I have been rather surprised that many think ex-gays,  religious rights, etc. cannot have a working relationship with the gltb community. This has  never been my experience. 

I am involved with two local HIV/AIDS volunteer organizations. I am on the board of  one of  them. Many of the gay/lesbian members of our board have been in long term relationships of 20+ years. Another man at one time was a member of the board of the local gltb organization. Many of the members involved with the other HIV/AIDS organization in the city where I go to church are gay, and we seem to have a good working relationship as well. I have been called when there are clients who are/were gay and desired Christian support and encouragement. I respect the members of these organizations as they put the client's desires before personal beliefs, even if they might not personally advocate an organization or ministry.

I have been shown nothing but respect -- in fact more so than many Christians show for the gltb community.  I consider my fellow board
members friends, and truly enjoy working with them.

Our ministry decided to embark on a Christmas wish list project for clients. The Christian community has responded in a very positive way. Breaking down walls and building bridges. Our organization's board of directors were somewhat surprised by the positive response of the "religious right."

Tom Cole hopes to make it possible for conservative Christians to become buddies for AIDS patients in the Detroit area.  We must get past the stereotype that cCs want to work with AIDS patients only in order to evangelize. Conservative Christians have lost friends and loved ones to AIDS and their motivation is a desire to do what Jesus would do.

There is an article on Justice and Respect site about Ruth Lamoureux - An AIDS Nurse with a Fundamentalist upbringing who speaks about her feelings and the gift her patients gave her when she became willing to look inside herself.

Ruth Lamoureux:

But I have not only touched my client's lives - they have touched mine as well. From them I have learned that to live means first of all accepting to die. I have learned that special relationships and trust are more important than professional barriers. I have learned the urgency of the moment and the need to share what you feel. I have learned to be real. 

It is because of my clients that I can teach the way I do. It is because of them that I can counsel at the clinic. It is because of  my patients - I can face another one recently diagnosed ... 

As a Christian AIDS Nurse, I would like to share my written dedication on the local AIDS Quilt. 

                            To all my Patients:
                            You have taught me so much - 
                            to suffer
                            to conquer
                            to be victorious.
                            You have taught me about death,
                            but even more so about life.
                            I will never forget you.

Steve Schalchlin’s musical, The Last Session, is about the developing relationship between Gideon, a singer-songwriter dying of AIDS, and Buddy, a conservative Christian who is intent on saving Gideon’s soul.  Gideon is patterned after Schalchlin. The role is played by Bob Stillman. Joel Traywick, the actor who plays Buddy, is a real-life conservative Christian, as is Tom Cole who works with Schalchlin on Bridges-Across.

Orange Country Register:

Stillman emphasized that both Gideon and Buddy give up some ground to understand each other. He highlighted the closing scene in which Buddy asks Gideon to let him say a prayer.  "We trip the audience for a second because they think Buddy hasn’t  learned anything," Stillman said. "They assume that he will try to save Gideon again."

Gideon knows better. With the passing hours, he has come to see Buddy’s innocence and sincerity. He senses the growing complexity of his newfound friend’s religious outlook. He closes his eyes in peaceful
trust.  Buddy stands over Gideon — eyes also shut, head tilted toward his creator — in silence. The audience never hears his prayer, but here’s what Traywick thinks of on most nights.

"Standing there, Buddy can feel only love for this man he despised just
a few hours earlier. In the beginning, religion divided them. In the
end, it brought them together in mutual healing.

"Tears always streak down my face during this moment," he said,
"because it’s true what people say: I am Buddy." 


Gideon and Buddy, Carla Harshman and her gay friends in Traverse City, Steve Schalchlin and Tom Cole, Steve Schalchlin and Joel Traylor, will become role models showing the way for conservative Christians and people with AIDS/HIV to come together in mutual healing.

Carla Harshman
Steve Schalchlin
Tom Cole 

Living in the Bonus Round

Gideon and Buddy, Carla Harshman and her gay friends in Traverse City, Steve Schalchlin and Tom Cole, Steve Schalchlin and Joel Traylor, will become role models showing the way for conservative Christians and people with AIDS/HIV to come together in mutual healing.
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