Pastor pulls out of inauguration over anti-gay sermon

The evangelical pastor chosen by President Obama to deliver the benediction at his inauguration ceremonies withdrew on Thursday (Jan. 10) … Continued

The evangelical pastor chosen by President Obama to deliver the benediction at his inauguration ceremonies withdrew on Thursday (Jan. 10) following a furor over a sermon from the mid-1990s in which he denounced the gay rights movement and advocated efforts to turn gays straight.

In a statement, the Rev. Louie Giglio of Atlanta, founder of the Passion Conferences for college-age Christians, did not directly renounce his remarks on gays but indicated that fighting gay rights is not one of his “priorities.” RNS photo courtesy Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers.

In a statement, the Rev. Louie Giglio of Atlanta, founder of the Passion Conferences for college-age Christians, did not directly renounce his remarks on gays but indicated that fighting gay rights is not one of his “priorities.”

Still, because of the controversy — which erupted on Wednesday after the liberal group Think Progress posted audio of the sermon — Giglio said that “it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration.”

“Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past 15 years,” said Giglio, who was chosen to deliver the blessing at the Jan. 21 ceremony because of his longtime work against human trafficking.

“Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ. Neither I, nor our team, feel it best serves the core message and goals we are seeking to accomplish to be in a fight on an issue not of our choosing, thus I respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President’s invitation.”

Addie Whisenant, a spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said in a statement that organizers were not aware of Giglio’s past comments when he was chosen — reportedly with Obama’s personal input. Giglio’s remarks “don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural,” the statement said.

Giglio’s exit was swift, coming just 24 hours after the sermon went public. That illustrated not only a concern that nothing disturb the civic ritual of the presidential inauguration, but also showed how unsettled the nation remains on gay rights despite — or perhaps because of — the rapid changes in public opinion.

Four years ago when Obama chose California megachurch pastor Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural blessing, there was criticism because of his opposition to gay rights — the best-selling evangelical author had worked to pass Proposition 8, which ended gay marriages in California. But calls for him to step aside were ignored by both Warren and Obama.

Obama’s pick for defense secretary, former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, has faced criticism for his comments in 1998 about an openly gay Clinton nominee for ambassador. Hagel has since apologized and renounced those remarks as “insensitive.”

The Giglio dust-up is providing another opportunity for each side to highlight its message.

“Are all orthodox clergy now to be banished from civic life if they openly affirm their faith’s teachings about marriage and sexual ethics?” said Mark Tooley, president of the conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy.

“Are only clergy from declining liberal denominations now acceptable according to hyper political correctness? Will the same standard also apply to Muslims and members of other faiths who don’t subscribe to the views of Western secular elites?”

Gay rights groups, on the other hand, welcomed Giglio’s departure and pushed the administration to name a gay-friendly replacement.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation posted a list of 10 candidates, including Jay Bakker, son of former televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and Rachel Held Evans, a popular evangelical author and blogger.

Whisenant said the inaugural would now look for a replacement for Giglio and “will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.”

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By David Gibson| Religion News Service David Gibson covers religion for Religion News Service.
  • justaboystandinginfrontofaboy

    “Are all orthodox clergy now to be banished from civic life if they openly affirm their faith’s teachings about marriage and sexual ethics?”

    YES, absolutely YES YES YES!!!!!!!!!!!!! But not for the reason given. Just simply yes.

    Zealots and mystics, of whatever stripe, have no place in civil society — except in their own private churches or wherever it is that they hole up to hold hands and sing and tell each other that there’s a man in the sky who loves and cares for them and helps their team win the superbowl, while condemning the rest of humanity to an eternity of gnashing teeth.

  • screendummie

    No one of any religious faith should hide their faith either at their place of worship or home. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and ect., shouldn’t conceal themselves as thieves in the night. The First Amendment clearly allows all faiths to practice openly with full protection of speech and freedom to assemble. All parts of the First Amendment coincide together. They are not divisible.

    Those who hold a closer orthodox may do so. If they don’t believe in homosexuality, they are free to do so. It is part of their moral belief system. No individual has to believe in that moral system, but to condemn it is wholly wrong.

    As long as people are not being compelled into a particular belief, no wrong is committed.

  • larryclyons

    However ScreenDummie, Those so called christians who decide to obnoxiously shriek it from the roof tops so to speak are going against their own fundamental dictums,

    from Matthew5:

    5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

    6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

    7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

    8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

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