US church leaders gather for HIV/AIDS summit

By November 27, 2006

USA (MNN/PDM) — HIV/AIDS is a global concern that will require a global response. However, Christian leaders believe the evangelical church isn’t doing enough to help those infected and those who will be the next victims of the disease that’s claiming millions of lives around the world.

Most government and health leaders now realize the pandemic can’t be stopped without engaging and mobilizing the Church into action. Local congregations are the largest grassroots network on the planet. With 2.3 billion members, nothing else comes close to the size, influence, local credibility, and number of volunteers around the world.

This week, Purpose Driven Ministries will host The Global Summit on AIDS and the Church (Nov. 30�Dec. 1). It’s the only event of its kind, equipping congregations with a specific five-point global strategy and a six-step local plan that every church can use to help end AIDS. Held annually on the 120-acre campus of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., the two day Summit brings together the leading authorities from health and relief organizations, governments, international agencies, and ministries to interact with pastors and church leaders from around the world who are modeling reproducible programs.

The Summit will focus on the indispensable role of local churches in ending this pandemic and in caring for those who are infected and affected by AIDS.

Two features make the Summit unique from other conferences. First is its integration into the global P.E.A.C.E. plan, a worldwide effort to mobilize one billion church members to address the five biggest problems on our planet. The prototype is currently being tested in over 80 countries. The Summit was first created to encourage, educate, and equip pastors in the Purpose Driven Network of churches, but now all church leaders are invited.

Second, the Summit is built around a new “local church-based” strategy rather than the traditional government and NGO strategies. The acrostic “C.H.U.R.C.H.” summarizes the six things any church, regardless of size, can do: Care for and support the sick, Handle testing and counseling, Unleash volunteers, Remove the stigma, Champion healthy behavior, and Help with nutrition and medications.

The reality is that even if we had enough medicines, nutrition, prevention programs, and even a vaccine — the problems of distribution, manpower needed, and local credibility for acceptance would still be huge barriers. The only affordable solution to these barriers is to mobilize the local churches that already exist in every city and village around the world. Churches have the most boots on the ground where the pandemic is greatest.

While helping physically is important, as Christians reach out in love and compassion, the prayer is that many victims will come to Christ before it’s too late.

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