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Pastor pulls out of inauguration program over anti-gay comments

Pastor pulls out of inauguration program over anti-gay comments

The Rev. Louie Giglio will not be delivering the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration after all. ABC News reports that he backed out of the ceremony over criticism of anti-gay remarks he made in the mid-1990s:

Rev. Louie Giglio, who had been announced as the pastor to give the invocation at the presidential inauguration, has now pulled himself out of the ceremony, after criticism of his previous anti-gay comments and actions, sources confirmed to ABC News.

Giglio, who is now Pastor at Passion City Church in Georgia and his role at Obama’s second inauguration was first announced Tuesday. But the liberal website Thinkprogress reported Wednesday on audio of Giglioi delivering a sermon in the mid-1990s in which he said homosexuality is a sin and advocated gay “recovery.”

ThinkProgress has posted this statement from the pastor:

I am honored to be invited by the President to give the benediction at the upcoming inaugural on January 21. Though the President and I do not agree on every issue, we have fashioned a friendship around common goals and ideals, most notably, ending slavery in all its forms.

Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, 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 fifteen years. 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. I will continue to pray regularly for the President, and urge the nation to do so. I will most certainly pray for him on Inauguration Day.

Our nation is deeply divided and hurting, and more than ever need God’s grace and mercy in our time of need.

Read ABC story here. Here is a roundup of the anti-gay statements that created the controversy, as reported on ThinkProgress Wednesday.


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Benedict Varnum

That all makes sense, Barbara; and thanks for taking the time to return to the topic here and write it.

I have various pieces of “skin in the fight” on this. One is simply that moderate voices tend not to bother speaking as often, and so I try to offer mine when I have a moderate opinion on something.

Another is that Christians ought to be held to the “love your enemy” standard (I have no idea what sort of commentary or feedback is going on over on ThinkProgress’s forums or comment boards).

A third is that I truly believe that a sustained moderate approach is more likely to serve the ultimate cause of justice for LGBTQ Christians and Americans. My concern is that refusing to allow “the other side” any space makes it incredibly difficult to discuss “compromise” positions, such as civil marriage benefits under the name “union” (LGBTQ supporters certainly differ on whether this is whatsoever helpful or acceptable).

The question you raise about who is, in fact, “on the cross” is of course an apt one, and it’s certainly a real and challenging line for “Allies” to walk, whether we be allies of LGBTQ rights, anti-racism work, or other causes. Certainly, those of us who are straight don’t have to deal with sexuality prejudice with the same immediacy that those whose sexuality is being decried do. I’m not sure where the metaphor places us: whether we’re “merely” friends at the foot of the cross, or some other group.

But wherever we are, I believe that we have it in ourselves to offer mercy and forgiveness too. When someone acts against the dignity of human persons through prejudice, or finds a theology that promotes evil, I do believe the response of all Christians must be twofold: both to firmly oppose the injustice, and not to offer evil in return for evil, violence in return for violence, or hate in return for hate. To do those things is always tempting. Discerning where the line of firm opposition becomes violence is tricky, and persons of good conscience can disagree about where the line belongs.

All of that is, I believe, different from passive acceptance.

I think it’s always helpful to try to think of ourselves in the Other’s shoes, so we might imagine a case where someone (who happens to advocate gay marriage) in a strongly anti-gay-marriage state receives a state award for work on, say, fighting urban poverty and food deserts. If the citizens of that state stood up and cried them down for also being pro-gay-marriage, it would, I presume, seem surprising, oblique to the activity in question, and a disappointing lack of restraint, given the unrelated scale of the honor actually being conferred.

It’s been suggested above that an analogy like this shouldn’t hold, because what evangelical pastors should actually be compared to is something like a ku klux klansman, but I find that roundly unhelpful and ungracious (though it’s also been suggested that grace shouldn’t be offered).

As to why we talk here, I could speak at length about the value of holding a firm position on a discussion board, but the shortest version of it is that I believe these boards can, in fact, have discussions of great integrity, and I try to participate in a way that offers my own to them.

barbara snyder

Benedict, I actually agree with quite a bit of what you’ve written here. In fact, my one and only point at the start of this thread was that Giglio could possibly have garnered some sympathy for the incident – if he had departed with grace. Instead, he preferred to continue the culture war battle in his exit speech – at which point, I totally lost interest in him (not that I had ever had much to begin with, since I’d never heard of him before).

I was commenting, IOW, on the way human beings actually shoot themselves in the foot more often than not, merely to have the last word (or keep the fight going). In fact, I gather this is part of what you’re saying here too.

I would point out that ThinkProgress is a liberal political organization, and has nothing, as far as I know, to do with Christianity. I really don’t understand why they – or anybody else not a Christian – would be held to the “love your enemies” standard.

Nobody on this board, as far as I can tell, had anything at all to do with his removal – so I don’t understand, either, why you’re taking people to task here. We were just talking about our reactions to a news item; I believe that’s what this board is for.

The conversation then turned to whether or not we had respect for these views – a separate issue, as I see it. You may be able to “be in charity” with those who aren’t trying, after all, to exterminate you. It’s easy to “forgive from the cross” if you’re not the one having to do it. Most of us just aren’t that advanced – and anyway even “forgiveness” doesn’t imply passive acceptance. Just as some of us said above.

You should probably be aware that many of us have a great deal of experience with this situation; most of us have disapproving family members, and we have had to deal with this situation personally anyway – sometimes for a very long time.

Benedict Varnum

Pardon; I really didn’t mean for that metaphor to be heard as hyperbolic.

But, focusing on “having the discussion,” what do you think about my suggestion of loving the opponent while being firm?

It’s been suggested several times here that Pastor Giglio’s decision not to repudiate his remarks from the 1990s has the consequence that he’s no longer a candidate for such Christian virtues as charity or mercy.

Nothing being said here is causing me to feel that I cannot both affirm the rights of gay and lesbian persons AND still hold charity towards those who disagree.

I think there are three kinds of wisdom to this:

The first is the Christian wisdom that we should bless those who curse us, love our enemies, and offer forgiveness even from a cross.

The second is the wisdom of the civil rights tradition that light, not darkness, drives out darkness, and love, not hate, builds love.

The third is a political pragmatism, where I believe you can have deeper conversations and more appreciation of nuance if you build trust around commonality, rather than force conflict around divisions. (This pragmatism stands pretty squarely on the notion that the political theatre of having a given person bless the presidential inauguration is not likely to have a direct impact on the justice or equality issues for LGBTQ American citizens)

All of these, it seems to me, are reasons to reflect soberly on whether we prefer a political climate where Pastor Giglio cannot, politically, fulfill this role, and whether we wish to have a media response of villifying him. My own answer to the first question is that it’s problematic, and to the second, that it’s tragic.

barbara snyder

Nobody’s “shooting” anybody, Benedict; we’re having a discussion on a weblog about a current event. Nor has anybody been “destroyed.”

Hyperbole like that is neither moderate nor irenic.

Benedict Varnum

I appreciate a lot of what’s been said, and, frankly, if none of it were being raised by others, I’d probably be pushing to make sure the voice of justice for LGBTQ rights be considered as part of this. As I’ve noted above, I disagree with Pastor Giglio’s positions; and I’ll add that if he were speaking today the soundbytes from 20 years back publicly near me, I’d be applying the rigor of my thought and engagement to opposing his ideas.

But it is increasingly difficult to create a voice of moderation in public discourse in the nation, and this seemed to me to be an easy moment to adopt an irenic stance of not shooting in the back someone already in retreat.

Put most simply, I think that — as in the civil rights movement — the cause of justice is not served only by boots on the ground, but also by building a better national conversation. Destroying the opponent doesn’t do that; loving them and holding your ground does.

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