11/27/2013 12:00:00 AM
CHICAGO (ELCA)—The leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Episcopal Church are commemorating World AIDS Day on Sunday, Dec. 1, by inviting "Episcopalians and Lutherans to consider increased congregational cooperation" in working toward a future without AIDS.
In their joint statement, The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the ELCA, and the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, encourage members saying, "We are convinced that churches can be significant leaders in education and awareness, welcome and care, advocacy and ultimately transformation of this disease's reach."
Noting that World AIDS Day falls on the first day of the Christian season of Advent, the bishops write that "like Advent, World AIDS Day invites us to consider the ways in which we live between the tension of the present, in all its brokenness, and hope and expectation for a future of transformation."
The bishops say "though the road to eradication of the pandemic around the world remains long, the signs of hope are clear" as they point to the AIDS initiative created in 2003 by then-President George W. Bush, renewed by the U.S. Congress in 2008 and reauthorized for another five years by Congress on Nov. 21.
The statement also highlights this country's comprehensive HIV/AIDS strategy and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as signs that "our nation's shared efforts to transform the face of HIV and AIDS in the United States offer much promise even as they invite further commitments to action."
The U.S. government's National HIV/AIDS Strategy was developed in 2010 with three primary goals: reducing new infections, increasing access to care and reducing HIV-related health disparities. The ACA will provide opportunities for access to health care and prevention and treatment for millions of Americans, especially those most at-risk for HIV transmission.
"In ways that did not seem possible ten years ago, we can now see through the brokenness of the present toward a future without AIDS. It would be a mistake, though, to treat this hope as a cause for inaction or decreased awareness to the urgency of the work that remains before us. The present continues to challenge us to respond in bold and courageous ways."
In encouraging members to respond to the challenges, the bishops emphasize the need for continued education about HIV and AIDS, citing polls that indicate "Americans increasingly see HIV as a manageable chronic infection rather than an urgent health crisis."
"This is leading to increased infection rates in many parts of the country, even as state funding for AIDS programs is declining in many places. It seems clear that significant community education remains an imperative," the bishops write.
Highlighting their work in global and domestic advocacy, the bishops point to resources that their respective churches have developed for their members. Information on the ELCA's strategy for HIV and AIDS can be found at http://www.ELCA.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/HIV-AIDS-Ministry. The bishops also highlighted their respective church's advocacy efforts with regard to ending HIV and AIDS. Information on the ELCA's E-Advocacy Network is at http://www.ELCA.org/advocacy.
Eaton and Jefferts Schori urge members to consider ways to work together to bring hope and healing. "Our churches' full-communion relationship is more than ten years old, and local communities are now collaborating in varied and exciting ways. Can shared strategy toward AIDS-free communities be a part of this? Could congregations challenge themselves to see the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS – observed annually beginning the first Sunday in March – as an opportunity to begin?"
The statement cites a passage from St. Paul's epistle to the Romans, which will be read in many congregations this coming First Sunday in Advent and World AIDS Day. "You know what time it is," St. Paul wrote. "Now [is] the moment for you to wake from sleep." The bishops' joint statement closes: "In the same way, let us recommit this World AIDS Day to activity and vigilance in order to hasten the coming of the transformation that is our future."
Click here to view the joint statement.
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with about 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877 or Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org