Purpose Driven Network Opens New AIDS Conference to Address Church

Since AIDS was first identified, there have been countless conferences from perspectives such as medical, social, political, and religious, but never one that pragmatically utilizes the local church.

Church leaders from around the world will gather with those living with HIV/AIDS, political leaders, and world-renowned AIDS experts at Saddleback Church’s “Disturbing Voices” Conference to take a look at the pandemic from Nov. 29 - Dec. 1 and think up congregation-sized solutions.

“With 2.1 billion people claiming to be followers of Christ, Christianity is the largest organization, the widest network, and the biggest volunteer force, larger than any country, government, or business,” says Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of the New York Times Bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. “The Christian Church is the only truly global organization, existing in every country and in thousands of indigenous people groups that are not represented by the United Nations or any multi-national corporation.”

Though the conference is for pastors in Warren’s Purpose Driven network to help treat and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in their own communities, it will also be a kickoff to what they hope would become a global mobilization of the church for HIV/AIDS.

“The evangelical church has been asleep at the wheel,” says Saddleback co-minister Kay Warren. “We have been absent from our post in caring for people and their needs for a very long time now.”

But she sees the church beginning to respond. “I see repentance happening; I see people waking up with the same shock that I did and wanting to respond. That fills me with hope.”

In years past, the church ostracized members of their communities living with AIDS, but began to wake up when the devastating effects of all global ills were compounded by the disease.

"The AIDS pandemic is the greatest humanitarian crisis,” Ken Casey of World Vision’s HIV/AIDS initiative told Christianity Today. "It just begs a reaction from the church."

More than 40 million people have HIV/AIDS – more than 1 million of which live in the United States. After studying the problems of the disease, such as the lack of a worldwide distribution network for medicine, and the need to mobilize millions of volunteers, the Warrens believe the pandemic will only be eradicated by equipping churches around the world.

Along with Bill and Lynne Hybels, the Warrens will examine how local churches can care for the sick the way Jesus did and talk about revolutionary ideas. Ideas such as how indigenous church members can administer treatment for HIV/AIDS to their peers will be presented through plenary sessions, workshops, and testimonies.

The Warrens will kick the conference off with their personal story of “How God Got our Attention” followed by a presentation on the “World’s Greatest Health Crisis” by scientist Jeffrey Laurence of amFAR; Chief Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, Claude Allen; and U.S. State Dept. Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Randall Tobias. On the second day, Bill and Lynne Hybels, co-ministers at Willow Creek Church and founders of the “Leadership Summit,” will present the “Hope of the World.” Prescriptions for the church will be presented by Bishop Charles Blake of West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, Windsor Village of the United Methodist Church in Houston, and the Rev. Francis Karemera of the Anglican Diocese of Kigali in Rwanda.