GREENSBORO, NC: Kay Warren Tells of Marriage Strain/Pain & Transforming Power at Anglican Missions Conference
By David W. Virtue in Greensboro
February 15, 2011
Kay Warren, the wife of America's leading Protestant churchman, Rick Warren, is slim, blonde, and unmistakably gorgeous, an all round California girl. On the surface, one might think she is merely a successful appendage to a highly visible husband who has enormous popularity with a church of 40,000 (Saddleback), a president, and numerous religious leaders and is the author of a book, The Purpose-Driven Life that has sold more than 40 million copies.
That would be to misread the cue cards.
Speaking to some 1200 participants at the annual winter conference of the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA) in Greensboro this week, Kay Warren told her own story of suffering that didn't exactly gel with her looks and her struggle as a two-time cancer survivor or with a family history of suffering.
"In the last two and a half years, our fourth grandchild nearly died at birth during an emergency C section. Seven weeks later, our daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to undergo 26 hours of brain surgery with a long recovery. Our daughter had severe auto immune disease, my mother slid mentally into dementia which made me the primary caretaker. On top of all this, our youngest child struggles with bipolar disease and has found it difficult to keep going. We have hung on by a thread of a finger nail," she told a stunned audience.
Warren said there have been struggles in her marriage to Rick, and stress in her walk with God. Through it all she says her walk with God has become stronger, deeper, richer and more intimate. "I have great family and friends. I am embarrassed to be in need. There is no big girl pill nor can I simply chill out." She added, "When I realize because of God's extravagant lavish love for me, and that I am his beloved, I can survive the painful circumstances that come into our lives.
"We need to tell people that they are the beloved of God. In doing so we remove the shame, it removes the guilt over sins I can't conquer. We are called to be messy with people and be with people in tremendous need. When you know you are His beloved and not God's bother you risk it all for Him. People may persecute you and hate you but you know also how much God loves you."
Warren tells the story of David Miller, a founder of the radical gay-activist group Act Up, who became a Christian after he was invited to Saddleback's first AIDS conference.
"I have watched the transformation in this man," Warren said, from hating the church all his life to becoming a follower of Christ. "He was a man fueled by hatred. He felt God had abandoned him and that the church had no interest in him. I watched David began the journey to believe and say God loves you. Rick baptized him, now he is fueled by the extravagant love of God. He is now a transformed man. He lives in an abandoned building taking care of 83 street people. God is keeping him."
Kay's Warren's own message is, "We are God's beloved. I have experienced the lavish love of God and I know what it is like to be loved and be His beloved. I can testify to the gospel of God's grace. I can share the love of Jesus Christ because we have experienced it at a profound level ourselves in our lives and now we share that with others. We are his beloved. We have become the beloved of God." She cites Deuteronomy 33:12.
Warren has been married to Rick for 35 years. She is the daughter of a Southern Baptist pastor, her life has been in the church, a background that set her up to be married to a man who has gained national fame as a pastor and author of a book, The Purpose Driven Life that has sold more books than any other in modern American history.
She has seen all kinds of strategies and programs adopted to make churches grow, but she has found none of them to be very satisfactory. "A lot of it was about duty and obligation that made me feel guilty," she said. She regards her message that we are God's beloved to be her best evangelistic tool.
While recovering from cancer, her heart was taken up by the orphans of the world and those who suffer with AIDS and the impact on homelessness.
In 2002, she became, in her words, "seriously disturbed" by the suffering of the millions infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. Through the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, she is now challenging the worldwide Church to take on not just AIDS, but the global giants of spiritual darkness, lack of servant leaders, poverty, disease, and ignorance.
Warren frequently travels around the globe to encourage HIV positive men, women, and vulnerable children. Today she is a powerful advocate on their behalf. In 2004, she founded the HIV/AIDS Initiative at Saddleback Church.
In 2005, she was instrumental in presenting Saddleback Church's first HIV/AIDS conference. The Global Summit on AIDS and the Church is now an annual event. Warren launched the HIV/AIDS Caring Community in 2006. Located at www.hivandthechurch.com, the online community offers resources and inspiration for churches involved in HIV/AIDS ministry.
Warren travelled to rural Mozambique to learn about AIDS. She met Flora who was dying from AIDS, a disease she got from her husband who had been with a prostitute. He brought HIV into the home. She had a child who turned out to be HIV positive. Her husband wanted his mistress to live with them and their HIV positive child. Now they are all dying.
"I asked her what we can pray for. The woman lifted her head and asked that the people pray for her children when she died. She said who will look after my children when I die."
Later, Warren visited Malawi and saw children heading households that were fatherless and motherless. Now she is big on foster care and adoption. Adoption has become another theme of hers.
"We live in a world of spiritual orphans. God took pity on us and gave us salvation to heal our broken relationships and to redeem us from the slave market.
"To trust and to have faith, to have hope and to go back into the darkness is what we must do. I can do it and make it. Knowing how much He loves me makes it easier for me to survive. Life is going to slap you around. That's reality. Knowing that you are beloved of God is the simple truth. What my heavenly Father has done for me he expects me to do for the fatherless.
"What he has done for us spiritually we must do for those who have no physical homes. We are to find families for the homeless not an institution or orphanage or group home. If you think we have done our best for orphans we haven't. They hope and dream to have a home with a mum and dad. I am asking you to do physically what I have done for you spiritually. God has created us relationally. We don't thrive in institutions but in relationship and in a home. We were made for community."
Warren received a standing ovation.
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