Interesting article today in the SF Chronicle about Saddleback, Kay Warren and the AIDS initiative. Here’s a clip:
Witchey roughly estimates that two-thirds of the foundation’s clientele is gay.
“There are people concerned that Saddleback would want to try to convert them
from gay to straight,” he said.
With 22,000 people attending services every weekend at its 120-acre campus in Lake Forest, the Saddleback community would seem to be a bottomless resource to help support those with HIV. Volunteers are certainly needed in Orange County. Health officials say 3,278 people in the county were living with AIDS in 2005, 84 percent more than in 1995. Federal funding to fight the disease in the county has dropped 3 percent a year for the past three years. And burnout leads to a constant churn of volunteers at organizations fighting an epidemic that is now in its third decade.
Other religious organizations, such as the National Episcopal AIDS Coalition and various interfaith groups, have worked with people with HIV for years. In San Francisco, Catholic Charities provides supportive housing for people with HIV. “For me, it is about purpose and agenda,” said Donna Fleming, program manager for Orange County’s HIV Planning and Coordination office. “If they have a religious agenda, that is fine, as long as they are up front about it, and people know where they are coming from. And then those agencies can make their own decisions about whether to get involved.
“There is other work to be done,” Fleming said. “They just need to show up at (HIV-related) events and keep showing up to show they’re committed.” Warren says she understands that Saddleback is going to “have to earn its stripes.”
“Now we show up at the football game, and the game is in progress,” she said. “And the coach looks around, and he has more than enough players sitting there on his bench — or not — and he says, ‘Maybe next game. Or maybe next year.’ Just because they don’t trust us, they’re not going to put us in the game.” Fleming 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.