CHICAGO — Cotton swabs tucked between their jaws and cheeks, bishops from the nation's largest Lutheran denomination sat in silence for three minutes Thursday as they underwent testing for HIV.
Those few minutes of silence would serve to break another kind of silence, one that the bishops say has kept the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America from compassionately addressing the global AIDS crisis and welcoming AIDS victims into the pews.
"We in the U.S. tend to think of this as a global pandemic unrelated to people in the U.S.," said Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson. "For me as a married heterosexual man to be tested is a reminder that all communities are affected -- if not infected."
Hanson, who also serves as president of the Lutheran World Federation, said American bishops were following the example of African religious leaders, who for years have encouraged their parishioners to be screened by publicly agreeing to be tested themselves.