Oral History Interview with Jerry Anderson, 1942-


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The Reverend Jerry Anderson, an Episcopalian chaplain in DC during the HIV/AIDS crisis and one of the founders of The Episcopal Caring Response to AIDS, describes his late 1970s arrival in DC. After working for Senator Adlai Stevenson III for a couple years, he became the first openly gay priest in the Diocese of Washington. As the AIDS crisis progressed he helped found The Episcopal Care Response to AIDS, pushed for AIDS response at The General Convention of The Episocopal Church, participated in the Interfaith AIDS Retreats, helped organize Barbara Bush’s 1989 visit to Grandma’s House, and started an HIV support group.


After seminary, Jerry Anderson served in parishes in Chicago and Mighican before moving to DC with his lover in 1976. At the time, he was in the process of coming out as a gay man. He found work with Illinois Senator Adlai Stevenson III, son of Ambassador Adlai Stevenson. Sooin, however, he realized his calling was pastoral work. He was hired as an assistant at St. Patrick's Episcopal Church in 1979, located in the Palisades neighborhood of DC. In 1981, he became the first openly gay priest in the Diocese of Washington, despite resistance from those who supported a woman priest and those who opposed him because he was gay. Episcopalin organizations such as the Virginia Theological Seminary refused to send him students for field training.

His first friend died of AIDS in 1983 and by 1986, he helped found The Episcopal Caring Response to AIDS (ECRA), which provided prayer and healing services for those with AIDS or who have died of AIDS. ECRA also raised money from parishes to fund a residence for people with AIDS in coordination with Christ Church, Georgetown, and the Whitman-Walker Clinic. Jerry formed a coalition to successfully push Episcoplians to respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis at The General Convention of The Episocopal Church. Despite homophobic leadership at the Washignton National Cathedral in the late 1980s, Jerry recalls the the interfaith HIV/AIDS services the Cathedral held in 1988 and 1990 to coincide with the NAMES Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt. He discusses the 1st Interfaith AIDS Retreat he attended and help organize.

When President George H.W. Bush took office, Barbara Bush, an Episcopalian reached out to him regarding ways she could raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. Working with Debbie Tate and Joan McCarley of the residential care home for children with HIV/AIDS, Grandma’s House, Louis Tesconi at the Catholoci Damien Ministries, Jim Graham of Whitman-Walker, and other organizations, he arranged for Barbara Bush’s tour of Grandma’s House in 1989.

He also founded an HIV support group in DC during this time. Jerry also discusses the progressive, accepting DC city leadership in the 1990s, homophobia and closeted staffers working on Capitol Hill, and the shift in his own life from the carefree gay social scene of the 1970s to the dark, all-consuming work of responding to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Other names and organizations mentioned: All Souls Church, The Color of Light: Daily Meditations For All of Us Living with AIDS, Metropolitan Community Church, Marion Barry, Food and Friends, the Carl Vogel Foundation (now MetroHealth), Friends Meeting House.


Access Rights

The interview belongs to the Rainbow History Project.
The RHP release form was used and all rights belong to RHP.




Jerry Wei



Southern Illinois, via Zoom


No, not yet transcribed

Original Format

Yes, recording available, 01:00:23
(audio .m4a, 55 MB)




“Oral History Interview with Jerry Anderson, 1942-,” Rainbow History Project Digital Collections, accessed June 25, 2024, https://archives.rainbowhistory.org/items/show/1756.

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