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Louie Giglio Withdraws from Inauguration over Past Sermon on Homosexuality

(UPDATED) Following uproar over sermon from mid-1990s, the Passion founder and pastor announced he will not deliver benediction at Obama's public swearing in.

Update (Jan. 21): Louie Giglio, the initial pick to give the benediction at the presidential inauguration, indicated on the morning of the big event that he wouldn't be voicing criticism or holding hard feelings over the controversy.

He simply tweeted, "The word benediction literally means 'good + to speak.' Seeking to do this today."

His message was retweeted hundreds of times by followers, including LifeWay president Ed Stetzer, who said Giglio's words were "good advice for all."

The controversy over Giglio's appointment to pray for the president and decision to withdraw from participating has raised questions about how Christians preach the gospel in today's culture.

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Update (Jan. 15): CNN reports that Episcopal pastor Luis Leon, whose Saint John's Church neighbors the White House (just across Lafayette Park) and is known as the "Church of the Presidents," has been picked to replace Giglio.

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Update: In a statement on the Passion City Church website (full text at bottom of this post), Giglio stated: "Though I was invited by the President of the United States to pray at his upcoming inauguration, after conversations between our team and the White House I am no longer serving in that role. ... The issue of homosexuality (which a particular message of mine some 20 years ago addressed) is one of the most difficult our nation will navigate. However, individuals' rights of freedom, and the collective right to hold differing views on any subject is a critical balance we, as a people, must recover and preserve."

Also, new survey results released by LifeWay Research today indicate that fewer than 2 in 5 Americans now believe that homosexual behavior is a sin (though most change has been from "Yes" to "I don't know").

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Passion City Church founder and pastor Louie Giglio will no longer deliver the benediction at President Barack Obama's second inauguration ceremony on January 21.

Just two days after the Presidential Inauguration Committee (PIC) announced that it had selected Giglio to give the benediction (reported by CT yesterday) because of his work combatting human trafficking, Giglio informed the committee that he is bowing out of the lineup.

"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," Giglio stated. "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." (Full text below.)

According to The Huffington Post, the sermon behind the uproar is "In Search of a Standard – Christian Response to Homosexuality," archived online, in which "Giglio tells listeners that being gay is a sinful choice and that gay people will be prevented from 'entering the Kingdom of God.'" Giglio delivered that message in the mid-1990s.

The sermon was first noted by Think Progress, which referred to Giglio's views as "vehemently anti-gay." In response, Ed Stetzer asks whether there is still room for evangelicals in the public square. (Also, reactions from Al Mohler, Russell Moore, and Joe Carter.)

By comparison, Rick Warren was also harshly criticized, both by gay rights activists and by conservative Christian groups opposed to Obama's election, after being picked to deliver the invocation at Obama's first inauguration. However, polls showed that most Americans supported the choice, and Warren stood his ground and delivered a prayer (complete text) that managed to invoke Jesus' name in four languages. The hubbub was one of CT's top 10 theology stories of 2009.

According to CNN, "A spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee said the committee was 'not aware of Pastor Giglio's past comments at the time of his selection and they don't reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural.'"

According to the Washington Post, "an inaugural official said Giglio was picked for the benediction in part because of his work raising awareness about modern-day slavery and human trafficking."

Slavery and trafficking were highlighted at the 2013 Passion Conference last week, where the 60,000 student attendees raised over $3 million for the newly launched End It Movement that aims to end modern-day slavery. CT reported live from the conference and has previously reported on Giglio and Passion City Church.

Giglio's complete statement released by The Media Collective reads:

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.

Full statement posted on website of Passion City Church:

Dear PCC Family,

Though I was invited by the President of the United States to pray at his upcoming inauguration, after conversations between our team and the White House I am no longer serving in that role. I sent the following statement to the White House today:

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 we need God's grace and mercy in our time of need.

The issue of homosexuality (which a particular message of mine some 20 years ago addressed) is one of the most difficult our nation will navigate. However, individuals' rights of freedom, and the collective right to hold differing views on any subject is a critical balance we, as a people, must recover and preserve.

As a pastor, my mission is to love people, and lead them well, while lifting up the name of Jesus above anything else. I'm confident that anyone who knows me or has listened to the multitude of messages I have given in the last decade would most likely conclude that I am not easily characterized as being opposed to people—any people. Rather, I am constantly seeking to understand where all people are coming from and how to best serve them as I point them to Jesus.

In all things, the most helpful thing I can do is to invite each of us to wrestle with scripture and its implications for our lives. God's words trump all opinions, including mine, and in the end, I believe God's words lead to life.

My greatest desire is that we not be distracted from the things we are focused on…seeing people in our city come to know Jesus, and speaking up for the last and least of these throughout the world.

Honored to be your pastor,

Louie

Regarding the Rick Warren controversy, CT interviewed Joel Hunter and Franklin Graham for reactions, as well as rounded up reactions from Charles Colson, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, and others.

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Posted:January 10, 2013 at 11:58AM
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