Back in November, 2009, I contacted Las Vegas, NV, Canyon Ridge Christian Church as a part of my reporting on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009. Canyon Ridge lists the Ssempas as missionaries on their website. Specifically, it has been of interest to learn how American ministries who have significant ties to prominent Ugandan supporters of the bill are reacting. Ugandans have reached out for assistance in significant ways to American churches and the relationships are deep and substantial going in both directions. Some of these relationships have been casualties of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
One Ugandan pastor who had been well connected in the US is Martin Ssempa. As is common knowledge now, Saddleback pastor, Rick Warren first went public with a split from Ssempa and then sent a letter and video denouncing the bill as “unchristian.” Colorado based abstinence education group, WAIT Training initially issued a statement neither supporting or endorsing Ssempa. More recently, however, WAIT Training severed all ties with him. Another American ministry, Teen Mania was slated to begin a youth leadership training ministry in partnership with Ssempa but recently put the effort on hold. Teen Mania issued a statement indicating disapproval of the bill and pledged to evaluate ministry partners in order “to ensure that we are not partnering with or supporting anyone who has advocated for a blanket death penalty for homosexual offenders.” Oral Roberts University, where Martin Ssempa is on the school’s Board of Reference has declined to comment on the bill at all.Recently, Canyon Ridge Christian Church ended their silence with the following statement from Executive Pastor Mitch Harrison:
Canyon Ridge Christian Church partners with missionaries and ministry leaders around the world, including Martin Ssempa, for the purpose of reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ and providing humanitarian aid where possible.
With the oversight of our elders and missions team, we constantly evaluate our ministry partners and their activities. We will only support those who engage in and promote activities consistent with the redemptive and grace-filled purposes of Jesus Christ in the world.
Canyon Ridge Christian Church does not wish to enter into the debate over the legislation in Uganda. We do encourage those involved to seek God’s leadership in humility and grace and to follow Jesus command to love one another as they wrestle with this difficult issue. Our prayers are for the good of the people Uganda.
The bill continues to be a difficult issue for American Christians to navigate. Many leaders I have spoken with are torn in their feelings. They really dislike the bill but they have come to trust their Ugandan brothers and sisters who are among the most vocal supporters of the bill. Make no mistake, I oppose the bill but I do understand the difficulty it is to separate with someone you have considered a friend over an issue of conscience.