Saddleback takes AIDS fight beyond ABC

November 30, 2007

Rick Warren Saddleback Valley Community Church, one of the largest evangelical churches in the United States, admits conservative Christians have been “late to the party” when it comes to active involvement in fighting HIV/AIDS.So the Church is making good use of acrostics to explain its stratgey to the 22,000 people who attend its weekly services in Southern California, as well as millions overseas who have been influenced by Pastor Rick Warren’s inspirational book “The Purpose Driven Life.”

Neatly side-stepping the controversial issues of homosexuality and condoms that have caused many a dilemma for U.S. conservative Christians, Saddleback has put its efforts into the way local churches around the world can help care and support victims — especially AIDS orphans in Africa.

Saddleback’s approach is an interesting contrast to the ABC of AIDS prevention (Abstinence, Being faithful, using Condoms) promoted by the Bush administration and several African countries.

The six things that followers can do at the outset are laid out in the simple to remember formula C.H.U.R.C.H.:

Care and support the sick
Handle testing and counseling
Unleash volunteers
Remove the stigma
Champion healthy behavior
Help with nutrition and medication.

P.E.A.C.E. is another acrostic that Saddleback has adopted to sum up the strategy Jesus might adopt on the AIDS pandemic, and which was heard repeatedly during a three-day conference this week on the Church’s role in the AIDS crisis:

Promote reconciliation
Equip servant leaders
Assist the poor
Care for the sick
Educate the next generation.

In the past three years, Saddleback has sent out more than 7,500 members to test its P.E.A.C.E. plan in 69 countries.

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