By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor
(CNN)–In the face of withering criticism over a sermon he apparently delivered on homosexuality in the 1990s, the Rev. Louie Giglio has withdrawn from giving the benediction at President Barack Obama's inauguration.
Giglio informed inauguration officials Thursday morning of his decision to withdraw from the ceremony, an inauguration official told CNN.
"I am honored to have been invited by the president to give the benediction at the upcoming inauguration on January 21," Giglio said in a statement delivered to the White House and the Presidential Inaugural Committee. "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 a 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."
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Giglio, a pastor and the leader of the Passion Movement, was chosen to deliver the benediction because he's a "powerful voice for ending human trafficking and global sex slavery" and due to his work in mobilizing young people in that effort, an inauguration official said earlier in the week when the reverend's selection was first announced.
Criticism over the selection swirled after the liberal website Think Progress posted a sermon that it said Giglio gave in the mid-1990s, a speech the site called "vehemently anti-gay."
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."
"As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration's vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans," said PIC spokeswoman Addie Whisenant.
In an audio copy of the sermon posted on the Think Progress website, a voice identified as that of Giglio's called homosexuality a sin. "That's God's voice. If you want to hear God's voice, that is his voice to this issue of homosexuality. It is not ambiguous and unclear. It is very clear."
"If you look at the counsel of the word of God, Old Testament, New Testament, you come quickly to the conclusion that homosexuality is not an alternate lifestyle... homosexuality is not just a sexual preference, homosexuality is not gay, but homosexuality is sin. It is sin in the eyes of God, and it is sin according to the word of God."
The recording continues: "The only way out of a homosexual lifestyle, the only way out of a relationship that has been ingrained over years of time, is through the healing power of Jesus."
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"We've got to say to the homosexuals, the same thing that I say to you and that you would say to me... it's not easy to change, but it is possible to change," he can also be heard saying during the sermon.
Giglio is a rising voice in evangelical Christianity. Last week, the Passion conference, which he founded, wrapped up its annual event for college students in Atlanta, with more than 60,000 students attending and vowing to end global slavery. They raised $3 million for charities that work to stop slavery and aid its victims.
Giglio said Thursday that he and his team don't 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," Giglio's statement to the White House continued.
"Our nation is deeply divided and hurting, and more than ever need God's grace and mercy in our time of need," it concluded.
Giglio took to his church blog Thursday to further explain his position to his congregants at Passion City Church in Atlanta.
"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," he wrote.
He asserted that his main goal as a pastor was to love people.
"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."
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said Giglio's decision to withdraw was the right one.
"Participants in the inaugural festivities should unite rather than divide. Choosing an affirming and fair-minded voice as his replacement would be in keeping with the tone the president wants to set for his inaugural," Griffin said in a statement.
Giglio represents a new type of evangelical leader who "doesn't like to get involved in the culture war because it blurs the larger points he wants to make," said Michael Cromartie, the vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.
"What I want to remind his critics is he's not being named to a Cabinet position," Cromartie said. "He was being asked to deliver a prayer. All sorts of people deliver prayers who we don't agree with on a number of issues."
"It's unfortunate that this kind of political correctness doesn't allow people who are doing great work to pray at inauguration," he added.
CNN's Athena Jones contributed to this report
I appluad Louie for standing up for what he believes. I just came from Passion 2013 and I'm so glad to see the leadership of Passion model what they want my generation to do. Remeber Louie- no weapons formed against me shall stand. So proud of your stance.
So you agree with him that being gay is an abomination?
You applaud Louie for promoting hate and violence? Seems warped... Are you sure it was the Passion conference? Maybe it was the Loathing conference instead?
I agree – one of the best things about christianity is how much liberty it gives you. It's so easy to use as a tool for validating your own preconceived prejudices while ignoring the overall message of Jesus. Hallelujah!
Love God, hate sin, very simple, SAVE YOURSELF SOME ETERNAL PAIN
Methinks we have us a troll...
I suspect it's the same troll who's been here under a variety of names.
Did I mention Jesus is on the worlds largest currency? Actually, it is refering to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but they all answer to GOD! In GOD WE TRUST!!! Find yourself another country to hate God from, this one is ONE NATION UNDER GOD, Endowed by our CREATOR with certain unalienable rights, God bless America, land that I love...That wi why they swear the president in on the book above all books, Jesus' book, THE BIBLE!!! PRAISE GOD FOREVER!!!
So God printed money?
As a born United States citizen, I respect the nature of our secular government and refuse to leave my home on the say so of someone who wants a theocracy. If you wish to live in a land where religion is law, I suggest you move to Iran or Vatican City. Leave America to those who love freedom.
Phrase added in 1948 need to correct ERROR congress made
added in ERROR in 1948congrees needs to fix it.
2013, what is that about, huh, yea, 2013 years must mean something big, who on earth did they start dating history for? Did any of you folks notice a big birthday party a few weeks ago? The biggest birthday, BY FAR X 1 billion of any birthday this world will ever know? That would be for the birthday boy, JESUS!!! Oh, yeah, He has the biggest selling book ever also, and the WORLDS LARGEST RELIGION! You folks started working for satan WAY TOO LATE, Jesus has already WON IT ALL!
Now Greg I need to speak to your mother – about your education, but also about keeping some cash in a safe place for me. Run along now, Greg.
So many lies in one post. Where do we begin?
You need to account for the only reasonable explanation, THERE IS A GOD! HE IS watching you NOW
Oh there are many many gods watching us, Greg. but not until I summon them which I don't do until after happy hour.
Now Greg, please get your mother because I need her to keep some cash in a safe place for me.
How did inorganic matter turn into living cells? What caused this dead dirt and rocks to become reproducing beings and plant life, etc, etc, etc,...You poor poor people have sooooooooo much splainin to do!
ah hah ha ha ha... another good one, Greg. You sound like one day when you grow up you'd like to be Craig.
Anyway, since you are just a child, Greg, can you get your mother – I need to ask her if she can keep some cash safely for me.
Y'know what? I don't know. My ignorance, however, doesn't mean that your explanation is automatically correct. It just means I don't know.
Willingly ignorant, that means DUMB ON PURPOSE! Do you smart guys know how life began? Any ideas? EVEN A CLUE????
In the beginning, GOD created the heaven and the earth....
ah ha ha ha ha
good one! but seriously, i have some cash i need for you to keep in a safe place for me, Greg.
Changed your name again, did you?
You don't know how the earth came to be. No one does. I certainly don't pretend to know, but you DO pretend to know. You, in fact, know nothing of the sort. You confuse "know" with "believe."
The leading hypothesis for the origin of life on our planet (thermal vent hypothesis):
(note it doesn't involve "gawd dun it wiff spelz")
sciencedaily.com nice place to LEARN
Stephen Hawking: 'There is no heaven' – Under God – The ...
by Elizabeth Tenety – in 624 Google+ circles – More by Elizabeth Tenety
May 16, 2011 – There is no heaven... that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,” Hawking told the Guardian.
Theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg suggests that in fact this is not much of a God at all. Weinberg notes that traditionally the word "God" has meant "an interested personality". But that is not what Hawking and Lederman mean. Their "god", he says, is really just "an abstract principle of order and harmony", a set of mathematical equations. Weinberg questions then why they use the word "god" at all. He makes the rather profound point that "if language is to be of any use to us, then we ought to try and preserve the meaning of words, and 'god' historically has not meant the laws of nature." The question of just what is "God" has taxed theologians for thousands of years; what Weinberg reminds us is to be wary of glib definitions.
Fear God and GIVE HIM GLORY! God is SO AWESOME! You people who revel in sin are missing the boat and hellbound. God is watching you NOW! WAKE UP! REPENT! BELIEVE IN JESUS!
Are you that crazy guy from every urban movie that walks around with his "end times" placard?
Greg – I know you're the type who can help me. I have a lot of cash I need for you to keep in a safe place for me. All I need is your bank account number.
Whatever you do, DONT SIN!! Sin will take you to hell forever. God will give you justice, unless you ask Him for MERCY!
Jesus saves, sin will drag you to the eternal fire, DONT GO!!!
Wake me up when its over.....
You say Jeebus dresses in drag, eh? That's cool, man, that's cool.
Is there anyone on the planet – over the age of 5 – that hasn't been insensitive, ignorant, or offensive? Is there anyone that hasn't evolved? Good grief, watch a movie or TV show from 15 years ago and compare it to the content of today – we age, we grow, we learn, we live. And THAT'S a good thing.
Has he changed or evolved re his views on gays?
You wouldn't happen to be the same guy who has been hammering Obama over Jeremiah Wright for the last 5 years, have you? Why would Obama set himself up for 3 more years of hammering over this Giglio bigot?
You also wouldn't be the same guy who is hammering Hagel for his supposed anti Isreal stance from 20 years ago?
Plus he looks like a poofter himself.
I won't be surprised is he is, as most gay bashers are gay themselves.
Mr Giglio – I've enjoyed you sermons, talks, music, CDs and am grateful for you sharing your love of God, thank you and keep the faith; may God grace you with peace and love in Jesus name ...
"Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first." 1 John 4:18-19 NLT
"this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans."
Clearly this administration does NOT have one of those.
He's typical christian pig. He used his cult to spread hate instead of feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and providing medicine to the sick. Death to the three arms of the blood god. Death to the christian, muslim and jewish cults.
You have no idea what you are talking about
Giglio's a boss!!!! Way to stand up for God!!!
LOL!!!1! Liek OMG!!!!
Dodo4Christ – I've got some money I need for you to keep for me – I just need your bank acct #.
As ANYONE here actually listened to ALL of Rev. Giglio's sermon ???
I have !
His is a message of LOVE, not hate ! It is ABOUT Love !
Before you comment on my post, you might want to actually LISTEN to ALL that
Rev. Giglio said in his sermon. So AT LEAST you can speak to the FACTS.
Thoughts based solely on this distorted article mean nothing.
Are you saying that he was misquoted ?
Amen to that. He is a true man of God.
He's just trying to help those pesky gays get right with god!!
I don't need to listen to any of that bull, I see his photo and I just don't like him.
What if there really is an evil force in this world that has been engulfing us collectively and individuallly, training and brainwashing us into believing that neither God or the devil exists?. It started in the Garden of Eden when the sly serpent cast doubt in Eve's mind by asking her if "God really said that"" and then again by telling her they could become like God knowing good from evil.
What if are leaders are trying to become like God from all the esoteric knowledge and mythology they have buried themselves in? Maybe they are trying to become like God just as Lucifer. Isaiah 14:12 – How art thou fallen from heaven O Lucifer, son of the Morning! ...13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven. I will exalt m throune above the stars of God: Iwill sit also upon themount of the congrgation, in the sides of the north: 14, I will ascend abovee the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
What I see is a divided people and a divided nation- It's all a part of their plan to keep us all at each others throats so we stay separate from each other-while they (democrate and republicans) unite and take away all our freedoms
No, it's not a "divided" nation between good and evil, it's more like a difference between those who are brainwashed from childhood into believing in mythological figures and those who remain in the default position from birth or acquire enough critical analysis to realize religion and the worship of god(s) is a filthy perverted disease of the mind.
For those who must believe in a god, what if there is indeed a god but his true test, which hasn't been revealed in any faith/book, is whether or not you exercised your free will during your time on the planet to believe in any of the various faiths/books of hate and intolerance that man created? What if the true test were something like: "Here are many versions of false religions to believe in, all of which purport to be based in love yet are clearly awash in hate and violence. Will you blindly follow the men who've told you their religion/book is holy, or will you use your mind to determine that in reality none of them are good? Can you realize that real, virtuous good only comes from your personal decision to practice love without threat of pain? Everyone who is deceived by a 'holy book' will be punished for eternity simply by not being allowed into the afterlife extravaganza."
The "default position" varies from person to person. The soil which the seed of the Word of God falls on is varied.
End Religion: Truth is not something we figure out through our intelligence, it is revealed to us through the Word and received by a willing heart.
@andy: you mean religion flourishes best in a pile of shit?
@andy: it sounds more like you're talking about emotion. Why would you call your religion truth when it is belief?
Nazis, liberals, blah blah, blah. You guys have such a small repertoire.
Benediction from a delusionist? Pfft. Who cares?
Obviously, you do.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.