Kay Warren is an evangelical leader, author, AIDS activist, and co-founder of Saddleback Church in Southern California. Along with her husband, Rick, Warren founded Saddleback in 1980 with just a single family to fill the pews. Today it has 120-acre campus, 22,000 weekly attendees, and has provided spiritual guidance and source material to over 400,000 ministers worldwide.
In 2002, Warren became "seriously disturbed" by the scope of the AIDS epidemic; she has since set up an AIDS ministry at Saddleback and spoken out about the disease around the world. Warren is the co-founder and co-director (with her husband) of The Global PEACE Fund, which fights poverty, disease, and illiteracy.
Warren has spoken to the United Nations Global Coalition on Women and AIDS. In 2006, Warren was among eight women honored for their humanitarian efforts at the CNN Inspire Summit. Warren is the author of Foundations Participant's Guide and Dangerous Surrender: What Happens When You Say Yes to God.
Question: Is AIDS God’s punishment for homosexuality
Warren: Unfortunately I think there are some people who still believe that. I wish I could say that that is an idea that’s completely gone and nobody thinks that way anymore. But I think if people would be completely honest, there are those who still think that. And all you have to do is look at . . . You see people still picketing with those kind of signs every once in a while, and it really makes me angry. And I have to say that I sort of fit into that category for a long time. I . . . Part of my ignorance was I didn’t realize how big it was. I didn’t understand how big the HIV problem was. And the part where I was just absolutely wrong was I thought that it was a gay man’s disease. And in my view at that moment, was that excused me from having to care. I was so wrong. I mean I was completely wrong. And as I began to study and research, I realized first of all it’s not a gay man’s disease. More women than men are infected around the world. But I had to do some . . . In religious terms I had to do some repenting. I had to do some apologizing. I had to . . . I had to do some . . . I cried a (24:30) lot of bitter tears at my own hardheartedness, because I don’t think that’s God’s view at all. I don’t think that . . . If you look at the pages of Scripture – Old Testament and New Testament – God is clearly . . . tells His people to care for the sick. Clearly over and over and over, He tells us to care for the sick. And when you get to the New Testament, you just won’t ever find Jesus asking somebody, “So tell me, how did you get sick? What did you do? Did you put yourself at risk? Did you do anything wrong that has led you to be sick?” You just won’t find it. You’ll find Jesus always saying, “How can I help you?” And so for me, the repenting and the changing of my mind and my heart was to say first of all to God, “I haven’t represented you well. I haven’t even understand . . . understood your heart for people who are sick. So I’m sorry for that.” And then I usually start most conversations with people in the HIV community both here and around the world with an apology. And I just say, “I’m really sorry. Please forgive me. I was wrong. I have not been present. I have not encouraged other people to get involved, and I have a lot of making up to do.” And it’s really cool because every once in a while I’ll find somebody that says, “Yeah! Where ya’ been?” You know, “Where have you been?” But most of the time I’m given such a gracious response where people say, “That was the past. You’re here now.” And that humbles me, you know? Because justifiably people could really beat me up verbally and have nothing to do with me. And while there are a few, most of the people are just like, “We’re just glad you’re here,” you know.
Recorded on: 12/11/07