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The world lost a faith leader in January, and Samaritan Ministry lost a friend. Dr. Jimmy Allen, was a past leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a founding inspiration for both the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (a Samaritan Ministry financial supporter since its beginnings in 1996), and the New Baptist Covenant.

In 1995 Dr. Allen authored a book called Burden of a Secret. This book told the story of his family’s encounter with HIV/AIDS and the terrible rejection that he faced at the hands of Christians. Stigma, isolation, fear, and ignorance all impacted this family as he wrestled with AIDS diagnoses for 4 family members. Rev. Mack Bingham, one of the ministers at Central Bearden at the time, read Dr. Allen’s book and decided that our church needed to learn more about HIV/AIDS and explore ways to impact our community. This was the birth, in 1996, of Samaritan Ministry.

Over the years we have had opportunities to share with Dr. Allen about his family, their journey, and developed a friendship with this wonderful, caring, humble, and soft-spoken man. In spite of the challenges that HIV brought to his family and with the struggles that he personally had with his gay son, Skip, Dr. Allen was a courageous warrior, and not afraid to speak openly about the challenges of HIV for his family, and within the church.

What we learned from Dr. Allen that has had the most impact on us was a statement that he made reflecting on all of the difficult issues surrounding his family dynamics and HIV/AIDS. He told us (at a CBF meeting in an elevator) that sometimes we just need to let our love trump our theology.

Thanks to Jimmy – friend and mentor. Hero.