January 10th, 2013
12:07 PM ET

Giglio bows out of inauguration over sermon on gays

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='EricCNNBelief']

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 Louie Giglio has withdrawn from giving the benediction at President Barack Obama's inauguration.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

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Christianity • Politics

soundoff (1,699 Responses)
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  8. The Real Jenifer 203

    Fred/Jenifer is such a liar.

    January 17, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • The Real Jenifer 203

      I'm so glad I'm not fred.

      January 17, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • The Real Jenifer 203

      If I was fred I'd be a liar for sure.

      January 17, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
  9. .

    Indeed, fred is well known to be a liar here already.

    January 17, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • Jenifer203

      That's for sure.

      January 17, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • The Real Jenifer203

      Fine, go ahead and play your games guys. You make things so confusing and convoluted that the kind of people who have to be told what's right and wrong have no idea which way to turn. Good job: you're fooling people who are easily fooled. That's what your kind does. I wouldn't be at all surprised if, out of the 1600+ comments on this thread alone, there were only a handful of honest, rational, well-meaning people reading/commenting. THOSE people, the reasonable and honest and good-spirited ones, are able to tell the truth from the lies, and can distinguish a calm, rational point-by-point argument from a stridently repeated response of "liar liar." The only thing that truly mystifies me is how you can see yourselves as the "good" side in this argument, when you're willing to stoop to any level in order to come out on top of it. But you do. If you're what "tolerance" and "acceptance" is all about, I'm very glad to be on the opposite side...

      January 17, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The fact that you think you're on the "right side" of the discussion says volumes about you.

      January 17, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
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      @Real, Real Jennifer, I think this person's just mentally deranged in some way.

      January 17, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
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      He can't be fred and I.

      January 17, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
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      Fred will come out of the closet eventually. It's not a crime to have gay tendencies like he does.

      January 17, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • The Real Jenifer203

      @Tom Tom the Piper's Son:

      You imply I'm automatically not on the "right side" of the argument, but I don't see how you can say that. I made one comment, and the next thing I know is that one or more of the people on YOUR side of the argument are pretending to be me. The sheer fact that someone is pretending to be me (and has been, every since my first comment a few hours ago) speaks volumes about YOUR side of the argument. Get real. It takes some real mendacity to lie and Lie and LIE, and then not only pretend to be someone else, but then ATTACK the actual person who is being, um "faux screen named" by calling THEM the liars. As I've said before, a handful of you folks (ben, hawaiiguest, you, the person using a "period" for a screen name, and a few others) are making things intentionally unpleasant here on the CNN Belief Blog. You all group-attack anyone voicing an opinion you don't agree with. It's called intimidation. You people are bullies, pure and simple. When you cannot win an argument, you use any and all means at your disposal to confuse things, misrepresent things, and whatever other methods you can come up with. You and I both know what you're doing. If anyone wanted to go to the trouble (which they won't, since you or others on your "team" have intentionally confused matters by using my own screen name to put words in my mouth), they could go back to, oh, about 5 hours ago on the previous page and find my first message, where I made a post of solidarity for Fred. The next thing I know, I'm being accused of being Fred (i'm not, by the way) and someone has made posts using my name. These are the dirty tricks your side has to resort to to, not win an argument, but thoroughly confuse the readers to the point that they don't know who is right or wrong or honest or dishonest. You are what The Internet is all about: disharmony, discord, and outright lies. I'm sure your mothers would all be very proud of you...

      January 17, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Jennifer, I'm pretty sure I'm not on "your side" but I agree screen name stealing is abominable, as is, to a lesser degree, accusing someone of being someone else. I've seen these done by both sides, however. Oddly screen name stealing more by the christians, and x=y accusations more by the atheists. Jerkiness is well spread. This is not a comment regarding your interaction with TT about which I know nothing.

      January 17, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
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About this blog

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.