Hoopla about the next millennium won't derail True Love Waits from its ongoing mission of persuading teens to a commitment of sexual abstinence until marriage.
"The True Love Waits theme for 1999-2000 is Crossing Bridges with Purity," said Richard Ross, TLW spokesman and youth ministry coordinator at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The bridge motif, he said, will symbolize "students who are moving into a new era of history with a strong commitment to moral purity."
The TLW emphasis on sexual abstinence has been credited for a drop in sexual activity among teens. The movement's momentum is reflected in the findings of a new study by the federal government's Centers for Disease Control: Less than half of young people report having engaged in sexual intercourse.
While the 48.4 level is far too high, it is an encouraging decline from the 53.1 percent of young people who previously reported having had sexual intercourse. It represents a 10 percent decline according to the findings of a similar CDC Youth Risk Behavior study in 1995.
Of the recent CDC findings, Ross said U.S. teens "are marching toward a major fork in the road that will shape the rest of their lives. For the first time in twenty years, an increasing number are choosing the fork toward sexual abstinence. Led by the swelling numbers in the True Love Waits movement, these teenagers are headed toward a life of joy, rich relationships, and intimacy with God.
"The declining numbers who choose the other fork are making a turn that is increasingly dangerous," said Ross. "Millions of dollars promoting the latex solution has not changed the fact that literally millions catch diseases each year, babies lose their lives before birth, dreams get shattered, and precious teenagers turn away in shame from God."
Among 1,000 sexually active teens, Ross noted, 250 teens will contract a sexually transmitted disease each year, at current rates. One STD, chlamydia, has reached such epidemic proportions that teenage girls should be examined for it twice a year, instead of the currently recommended yearly testing, according to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August.
The now-international TLW campaign, in which eighty Christian entities have joined forces since its launch by Southern Baptists in 1993, plans a multi-phase effort for the Crossing Bridges with Purity campaign:
Local/city displays of commitment cards signed by teens: During the months of January and February 1999, students will conduct True Love Waits campaigns in churches and schools to challenge their peers to commit to sexual abstinence until marriage. On Friday, Feb. 12, 1999, churches, local youth groups, community organizations, and schools will come together to create a community display of pledge cards, perhaps on a local bridge or other focal point in the community.
State displays: Cards from the community displays will be gathered and sent to a central point in the state for a state display in the spring or summer.
National display: Cards from all fifty state displays will be sent to San Francisco for a national display at the Golden Gate Bridge on Oct. 2, 1999. Organizers hope to collect enough cards to span the entire one-mile length of the bridge.
"Many leaders consider the 1994 display of True Love Waits cards on the Mall in Washington a watershed event in the Christian abstinence movement," Ross recounted. "The national display in 1999 can once again rivet the attention of the country on students who have made a powerful lifestyle choice."
International display: Cards from the United States and other countries will be sent to a site near the International Date Line to be displayed together the final week of December 1999. "The display will be a symbol of students around the world who are moving into a new era of history with their heads held high in a strong commitment to moral purity," Ross said.
More information about the True Love Waits initiative can be found at the Internet site, www.truelovewaits.com, or by calling 1-800- LUV-WAIT.