Saturday, May 13, 2006

Saddleback Struggles to Bridge the Divide Between Evangelicals and American AIDS Victims

Joe Garofoli of The San Francisco Chronicle reports;
Now, with the apologies offered and the buzz faded from an HIV conference that Saddleback hosted for 1,700 Christian pastors in December, two-time cancer survivor Kay Warren is tackling the grunt work behind the promises made that day. And Rick Warren has taken a supportive backseat.
In many ways, she said, it has been easier to help people with HIV in Africa -- because other evangelicals have been trying to make inroads there for a couple of years -- than to reach out to those just a few miles away. She has found herself caught in the middle of the nation's widening cultural gap between conservative Christians and nonevangelicals.

Fellow evangelicals are upset with her frank discussions of sexuality and advocacy of condom use. On the other end, some secular HIV care providers are wary of Saddleback's motives.

Fleming [program manager for Orange County's HIV Planning and Coordination office] suggested that there probably wouldn't be much resistance from skeptical HIV care providers if Saddleback volunteers wanted to do things like stock food pantries, where they would be less likely to be in contact with people with HIV.

Warren said Saddleback members are willing to stock shelves, but she doesn't want church members to be isolated from people with HIV. The point of Saddleback's HIV ministry -- or Care Teams, as the church calls them -- to is to interact with the sick and their families at their time of need, and literally hold their hands.

This is a terrific article - it covers everything from Warren's PEACE plan to some of the tension within the church over the issues of sexuality. Check it out here.

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