- (Photo: AP Images / Ronda Churchill)
Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton is scheduled to join Saddleback Church's third annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church hosted by Rick and Kay Warren.
Clinton is the first of six invited presidential candidates to confirm participation at the Nov. 27-Dec. 1 summit. The Warrens extended invitations to leading White House contenders former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, all of whom have expressed a desire to participate.
"Inviting politicians from different perspectives to the Summit is not a political decision - it is a humanitarian and Christian action," said Rick Warren, bestselling author of The Purpose Driven Life, in a statement released Thursday. "When millions are dying each year, we're interested in lives, not labels. We want everyone to become concerned about the AIDS pandemic."
The 2007 summit follows last year's controversy when Warren and his wife Kay hosted Obama and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who dropped out of the race last month, at the AIDS summit.
Conservatives and pro-life groups were outraged over the invitation of the Illinois senator who professes Christian faith and is pro-choice. Groups such as the Christian Defense Coalition protested against working together with someone in contrast with the teachings of historic Christianity.
While affirming his pro-life stance, Warren said he and Kay were focused on the AIDS crisis and uniting people that otherwise would not collaborate together around the issue. And Obama has been active in the AIDS and poverty battle.
Speakers participating at the Saddleback summit are said to be affirming and supporting the vital role of the Church in fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Clinton affirmed the need for churches to get involved.
"I commend Rick and Kay Warren for their work to fight HIV/AIDS," Clinton stated. "Our churches have a powerful role to play in raising the consciousness of the nation and the world to this pandemic and urge compassion for the sick and the suffering. When we come together, seeking the common good, we can find solutions to our biggest challenges and reinforce our faith that a call to action can change lives. I am honored to participate in this 'coming together' at the third annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church."
The Warrens have been at the front lines of leading the evangelical community in the fight against a pandemic that has been labeled the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Until recent years, churches had largely been absent from the HIV/AIDS battle, distancing themselves from the stigma of the disease, which has been associated with sin.
Since realizing the pain of millions living with the pandemic without much support, the billions affected by it, and what the Bible has to say about caring for the sick, the Warrens have been mobilizing Christians for over four years now to overturn the pandemic. Although the church response is still slow, the Warrens are convinced that AIDS cannot be ended without the Church and its 2 billion followers around the globe.
"The HIV/AIDS pandemic is so large that it can't be stopped without the combined efforts of leadership in the public, private/profit and faith sectors," said Kay Warren in a statement. "Obviously, that includes whoever is elected as the next president of the United States. We are urging all of the current presidential candidates to continue and expand the international efforts of AIDS relief of the current administration. To stop what has been started would mean the deaths of literally millions of women, children and men who are alive today solely because of treatment and prevention strategies available through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)."
The HIV/AIDS initiative of Saddleback Church is a key part of the P.E.A.C.E. plan, an overarching humanitarian strategy launched three years ago. This worldwide effort is to mobilize 1 billion church members to Promote reconciliation, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation.