I have great respect for Pastor Louie Giglio of Passion City Church.
I was pleased to hear Giglio had been invited to pray at President Obama’s Inauguration. I was not pleased to hear that he had been pressured into withdrawing from participating due to his having once expressed the implications of his Christian faith concerning homosexual behavior. Although I understand Louie Giglio’s concerns about protests potentially distracting both from the Inauguration and his own ministry efforts, I think his decision could establish a dangerous precedent and potentially hurt the very cause of Christ he is trying to protect.
I offer here both Pastor Louie Giglio’s full statement to his church and my own additional paragraphs that I wish he had said about the inaugural prayer:
Louie Giglio’s Statement to His 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.
What I Wish He Had Said
[NOTE: The following five paragraphs are what I wish he had added to his statement and are NOT those of Louie Giglio]:
My concern is that the last and least of these may now include any Christian speaking in the public square. The views I expressed then, and for which I have now withdrawn my name, are those of Scripture and commonly held by historic Christianity. Using the criteria of those wishing to advance their own agenda in this situation, Reverend Billy Graham himself would not be permitted to pray without similar protest. Nor would an abolitionist giant such as William Wilberforce be permitted to speak.
The pressure to see me silenced implies a test of faith for public prayer and participation that, if applied to those seeking public office, would come dangerously close to violating Article VI of the US Constitution. Such efforts should rightly concern all people of all faiths in this diverse nation.
Although I did not ask for this issue to be raised in this way, nor would I have chosen it, God apparently had another plan. His ways truly are not our ways. As His servants, we don’t always get to pick the challenges put before us — only how we will faithfully respond. I will trust that He is working all of this for greater good for the success of the gospel of freedom in Christ.
I confess that I find it difficult to refuse the opportunity to publicly pray for someone out of fear that some may protest my faith in Christ and the truths revealed in His Word. He is the reason I can pray at all. Apart from His Word, we have no hope to offer the hurting captives enslaved here and around the globe. Apart from that faith, we have no mission. We love them — even those who protest against us — because He first loved us.
So although I have withdrawn my name from consideration for reasons earlier explained, it is my hope that President Obama and I will continue to work together to end slavery in all its forms, including the slavery that restricts the free exercise of religion by tyrants of an ideological sort. I will pray that such practices do not result in the gospel being hindered as we continue to point people to Jesus — the way, the truth, and the life.
[NOTE: The preceding five paragraphs are what I wish he had added to his statement and are NOT those of Louie Giglio].