A group of former Church of Scotland General Assembly moderators have praised the work of the Kirk’s HIV charity as it hits a £1 million fundraising milestone.
In 2010, almost £200,000 has been raised for the Church of Scotland HIV/AIDS Project, which supports frontline care across the world. The vast majority of this money came from congregations and members of the Presbyterian Christian denomination which is the largest in Scotland.
A group of former Moderators of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, including the former chief inspector of HM Prisons in Scotland, the Very Rev Dr Andrew McLellan, hailed the Project’s work as a “fantastic achievement” after it broke the £1 million barrier.
Dr McLellan declared: “When people mumble that the church is in crisis this remarkable story needs to be told."
He continued: “The Project has been encouraging congregations to face up to tough questions on HIV, challenging the church to combat the stigma and discrimination which so often still accompanies an HIV positive diagnosis.
“Raising awareness and working with partner churches and other agencies in no fewer than 20 countries, the Church’s support has often been a lifeline for people and families living with HIV.
“This £1 million has been used to support people infected and affected by HIV, both at home and overseas; and it has been raised by local churches from all over Scotland.”
Among other former Moderators backing the Project are the Very Rev Alan Main, Kilmarnock minister the Very Rev David Lacey, and Dr Alison Elliot, the first female to hold the position in the Kirk.
Set up in 2002, the Church of Scotland HIV/AIDS Project equips and supports partner churches and grassroots schemes in over 25 countries.
Domestically, the Project encourages congregations to face up to the challenges surrounding HIV, including combating stigma and prejudice, raising awareness and educating people of all ages about the virus.
As it worked towards the £1 million total, the Project became well known for imaginative fundraising initiatives, such as humourous sketches for Christmas services and “Souper Sunday” – where congregations held a soup and sandwich lunch after worship with all proceeds going to the fund.
In May 2010, the Project’s report to the General Assembly warned of “disastrous consequences” if governments were to retreat from international funding commitments in the fight against HIV and Aids.
The Kirk agreed it was imperative that the global recession was not used as an excuse for countries to stop contributing to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, which enables developing countries to purchase the necessary anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).