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Evangelicals Venture Into AIDS Activism

Discussion in 'Politics & World News' started by N8 v2.0, Dec 1, 2005.

  1. N8 v2.0

    N8 v2.0 Not the sharpest tool in the shed

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    Evangelicals Venture Into AIDS Activism
    Associated Press | Dec 1 2005 | GILLIAN FLACCUS

    LAKE FOREST, Calif.

    After years of ministering to AIDS patients overseas, evangelical Christians are turning attention to the disease in their own back yard _ and one of the nation's largest and best-known megachurches is leading the way.

    Nearly 2,000 pastors have traveled to Orange County's Saddleback Church for a national conference that coincides with World AIDS Day on Thursday. On the agenda: How to start local AIDS ministries and free HIV testing in churches.

    The "Disturbing Voices" initiative, led by best-selling author and megachurch pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay Warren, represents a shift among evangelicals. Many sidestepped the U.S. health crisis because of its association with homosexuality even as they made AIDS part of their missions in Africa and other places where the disease disproportionately affects women and children.

    "The evangelical church has pretty much had fingers in our ears, hands over our eyes and mouths shut completely," said Kay Warren, whose interest in HIV/AIDS led her husband to sponsor the conference. "We're not comfortable talking about sex in general and certainly not comfortable about talking about homosexuality _ and you can't talk about HIV without talking about both of those things."

    Saddleback, with 22,000-members, isn't alone in its newfound domestic focus. A small but growing number of evangelical Christians are focusing on homegrown AIDS ministries.

    Churches have realized that AIDS isn't a "gay disease" and can't be easily labeled, even in the United States, said Doug McConnell, dean of School of Intercultural Studies at the Pasadena-based Fuller Theological Seminary. Interest in domestic ministries has steadily grown in the past five years, he noted.

    McConnell said some evangelicals began asking, "'We're involved overseas ... so why aren't we involved here?'"

    "This is a relatively recent awareness and it's come primarily from the devastating effects AIDS has had on Africa," he said.

    Harry Knox, director of the religion and faith program at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation _ a leading gay rights organization _ said he welcomed the outreach as long as it wasn't judgmental.

    "For far too long, many radical right pastors have mischaracterized the disease for their own political purposes and we have reaped the unfortunate reward of that misinformation," he said. "It is good news that evangelicals are now embracing people with HIV and AIDS to help us get our needs met."

    Alan Witchey, executive director of AIDS Services Foundation Orange County, said Saddleback Church helped collect $5,000 in food for HIV/AIDS patients last year and was doing it again this year. He said the help was welcome because his organization was too small to collect so much food on its own.

    "A group like Saddleback is late to the table in terms of stepping up to help, but they're stepping up to help at a wonderful level," he said. "We try to practice the same kind of thing that we want from people. We don't morally judge who's supporting us. We wouldn't turn our back."

    About 1,700 senior pastors from evangelical churches nationwide are attending the Saddleback conference, which ends Thursday evening with a free concert featuring Wynonna Judd and nearly a dozen Christian rock acts.

    Workshops include such topics as "Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would" and "The Local Church Engaged in Prevention/Treatment/Care/Support." Participants also plan to visit Laguna Beach _ known in Southern California for its gay scene _ and to visit with HIV-positive Southern Californians.

    Warren said he's encouraging other pastors to offer free testing and counseling at their churches, start service group to help HIV patients with daily chores and train lay members to administer crucial anti-viral drugs.

    The focus isn't on the behaviors that led people to contract the virus _ and Warren hopes other pastors will follow his lead.

    "The church has the moral authority to say, 'Hey, it's not a sin to be sick,'" said Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life," a best-selling book. "The Gospels repeatedly show that Jesus loved, touched, and cared for lepers _ the diseased outcasts of his day. Today's 'lepers' are those who have HIV/AIDS."

    ____

    On the Net:

    http://www.saddlebackfamily.com/home/today.asp
     
    #1 -   Dec 1, 2005

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  2. DRB

    DRB unemployed bum

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    That's a good thing.
     
    #2 -   Dec 1, 2005
  3. Andyman_1970

    Andyman_1970 Turbo Monkey

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    It is awesome to finally see the evangelical church here in the US step up to the plate with this issue.
     
    #3 -   Dec 1, 2005
  4. kidwoo

    kidwoo Celebrating No-Pants Day

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    It's cool to see them do ANYTHING useful..............besides trying to ban Catcher In the Rye.
     
    #4 -   Dec 1, 2005
  5. N8 v2.0

    N8 v2.0 Not the sharpest tool in the shed

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    Seems that they are a decade or two too late... there were a lot of souls to collect back then.
     
    #5 -   Dec 1, 2005
  6. Silver

    Silver find me a tampon

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    I've been to that church.

    I'm sure you're fully aware of my thoughts on that by now, but I do have to say I found Saddleback much less odious and much less money based than pretty much any of the other places I've been dragged to.

    So, while I don't agree with their beliefs, I did sit through a service without hearing any complaints about how the gays are wrecking society. That was very nice for a change.
     
    #6 -   Dec 1, 2005
  7. Andyman_1970

    Andyman_1970 Turbo Monkey

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    Yeah I like Saddleback and Rick Warren, he's one of the few evangelicals I'll read and actually consider what he teaches.
     
    #7 -   Dec 1, 2005
  8. fluff

    fluff Monkey Turbo

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    I wonder if they'd still be doing it if HIV/AIDS was a gays-only disease.
     
    #8 -   Dec 1, 2005
  9. Changleen

    Changleen Paranoid Member

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    #9 -   Dec 1, 2005