I posted an announcement on Tuesday that Louie Giglio, the pastor behind the Passion Campaign, had accepted the invitation of the Presidential Inaugural Committee to deliver the benediction at the second inauguration of President Barack Obama on January 21, 2013.
Today, in a letter to his church family at Passion City Church, Giglio told members he was respectfully withdrawing his acceptance. Here is the full statement he sent 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 "fight not of our choosing" is over the issue of homosexuality. After digging up a sermon from nearly 20 years ago, Think Progress and other media outlets wasted no time labeling Giglio an "Anti-Gay Pastor" for preaching "rabidly anti-LGBT" views.
I applaud Giglio for not lowering himself into the boxing ring. I pray along with him that our wounded and divided nation might come together to heal. And as a citizen of America, I pray we all continue to value and uphold our individual and collective rights to freedom, particularly religious freedom, including our right to hold differing beliefs and viewpoints.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I stand in support of Giglio when he says, "God's words trump all opinions, including mine, and in the end, I believe God's words lead to life."
In closing, I see this story as another glaring example of the overwhelming trend toward marginalizing evangelical Christians in today's society. It doesn't seem to matter that Giglio heads a global campaign to end slavery and human trafficking and has been raising millions to assist victims. No, what matters is that in the mid-1990s he publicly expressed a traditional Christian view on homosexuality, a view that is deemed unacceptable by the majority today.
I find myself with the same question as Ed Stetzer at The LifeWay Research Blog when he asks, "Where do people of faith with long-standing traditional religious/scriptural convictions go from here?"