Not Interested Enough in Caring for People´s Bodies
The Saddleback Church talks about Aids in Russia
M o s c o w – It wasn’t evangelisation in the narrow sense which brought three women from the world-renown, Saddleback Church in California to Russia in the week after 29 April. In Moscow, Kay Warren, Executive Director of the congregation´s HIV/Aids-Initiative and spouse of Senior Pastor Rick Warren, concluded: “We´ve been concentrating on getting people saved and getting them to heaven, which is absolutely correct. But the Gospel and Jesus cared at the same time for people´s bodies. We have not done as much as we should to care for the weak, the widow and the orphan.”
The three women regard care for the victims of Aids as a profundly Christian concern. Jesus cared “for the least of these” and according to these women Jesus is especially near the downtrodden and outcast – those stricken with Aids, for ex. Even in very practical terms the church could play a vital role in the distribution of medication combatting Aids. Elizabeth Styffe from this Initiative noted that in Ruanda congregations outnumber clinics by as much as 100-to-one. Being that Russia is also hampered by problems of distribution, Christian churches could play a similar role here. She assured: “It is the churches who should be the greatest foe of Aids.”
In Russia the women visited Protestant rehablitation centres in S. Petersburg, Vladimir, Voronesh and Moscow. Kay Warren explained: “We have come to see what Russian believers are doing.” Saddleback views the local congregaton as the key to the church´s success. The local congregation and all of its members should be mobilised to achieve something also in the social and medical realms for the benefit of the entire society.
Regarding the criticisms of Saddleback which have surfaced in the USA and traveled as far as Russia, one of the guests responded: “Certain church leaders criticise us, but we don´t criticise them in return.” The women reported that their congregation´s lack of expository, verse-by-verse preaching bothers some. The worship styles at Saddleback are too contemporary and open for others. Yet Saddleback continues to be a member of the distinctly conservative Southern Baptist Convention – the USA´s largest Protestant denomination.
The Saddleback Church, located in Lake Forest, California, was founded by Rick Warren in 1979 and is now attended by 18,000 persons per Sunday. The Pastor’s best-known book, “The Purpose-Driven Life”, has sold more than 16 million copies. That breaks all the records made by the books on Harry Potter. Warren´s book has also appeared in Russian.
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 08 May 2007
A press release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #07-12, 440 words.