From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Churches Cautioned against a Moralistic Approach to HIV/AIDS

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Mon, 26 Apr 2004 13:09:26 -0500

Churches Cautioned against a Moralistic Approach to HIV/AIDS
Justification by Grace through Faith a Basis for Churches to Counter
all Kinds of Discrimination

ODESSA, Ukraine/GENEVA, 26 April 2004 (LWI) - The director of the
Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Department for Theology and Studies
(DTS), Rev. Dr Karen Bloomquist, has cautioned churches against a
moralistic approach to HIV/AIDS. People living with HIV/AIDS were
already pervasively stigmatized and often labeled as sinners or, even
worse, their affliction was viewed as God's punishment, she told
representatives of LWF European member churches attending a regional
consultation in the Ukrainian capital, Odessa. 

The DTS director noted that in many cases, it was the people affected
by HIV/AIDS who had been sinned against as their families and society
subjected them to lack of love and injustice. Moralistic approaches, she
cautioned, would only drive those affected further away from the
churches. In addition, such approaches contradicted what is at the core
of the faith Lutherans profess. All human beings are created in the
image of God; God-given dignity applies to all regardless of their
faith, Bloomquist stressed in her address titled "Theological-ethical
Perspectives Evoked by the HIV/AIDS Crisis."

God's love, as experienced through Jesus Christ, "impels us to respond
with love toward any human being in need, especially those who are
suffering," Bloomquist told the HIV/AIDS consultation attended by church
leaders, women and youth leaders, as well staff from international and
national non-governmental organizations. The many diaconal initiatives
such as care and support toward those living with HIV/AIDS, are
important, she said.

Churches, said Bloomquist, are called to act out of the heart of
Lutheran theology, out of justification by grace through faith. She
noted that many of the writings of the apostle Paul and reformer Martin
Luther challenged the moralistic distinctions between those people who
are considered to be more sinful than others. "All have sinned and are
in need of God's mercy and forgiveness," she declared. She underscored
justification by grace through faith as the fundamental basis for the
churches to oppose and work to counter all kinds of discrimination,
ostracism and exclusion which continue to kill people.

The DTS director pointed out that the New Testament repeatedly bears
witness that Jesus reached out to [sex workers] and to others whom
society viewed as sinners. In the Beatitudes, Jesus declared blessed
those who were poor, hungry, sorrowful, meek, hated and persecuted. He
also rebuked those who considered themselves justified, she said.

Through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the churches recognized a God
who is in solidarity with all who suffer, including those affected by
the scourge of HIV/AIDS. The resurrection was the heart of the church's
proclamation and life, also in relation to the challenges of HIV/AIDS,
Bloomquist stressed.

Bishop Geza Ernisa, Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in
Slovenia, pointed out that it was not a sin for someone to be HIV
positive, but it was a sin not to help people living with HIV/AIDS. The
church must be a witness and seek answers to all issues that concern
society, he said. 

That the LWF consultation on HIV/AIDS was being held in premises in
Odessa where worship normally takes place, was a clear sign that people
living with HIV/AIDS were a direct concern for the churches, said Bishop
Dr Edmund Ratz, German Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Ukraine

Rev. Doris Bazlen, one of the coordinators of the AIDS chaplaincy of
the Evangelical Church in Wuerttemberg, Germany, said the churches' task
was to strive to ensure that every person, irrespective of the part of
the world in which they lived, had access to anti-retroviral therapy.
Every person who died because they had no access to this life-saving
treatment was one too many, she noted.

The April 20 to 25 consultation organized by the LWF in cooperation
with DELKU, was the last of four regional conferences under the LWF
global campaign against HIV/AIDS, launched in 2002. (651 words)

[The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran
tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now has 136 member
churches in 76 countries representing 62.3 million of the almost 66
million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on behalf of its member
churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and inter-faith
relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights,
communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work.
Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.)

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the LWF's information service.
Unless specifically noted, material presented does not represent
positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various units. Where the
dateline of an article contains the notation (LWI), the material may be
freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]
*    *	   *

LWI online at: 
PO Box 2100, CH-1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
Tel: (41.22) 791.63.54
Fax: (41.22) 791.66.30 
Editor's e-mail: 

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home