Rick Warren Tweets Opposition to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill
December 11th, 2012
That’s Saddleback pastor Rick Warren’s tweet last Friday referencing a video he made in 2009. I had hoped that it would presage a larger statement. But a whole weekend has passed and we’re well into a new week, and nothing’s been forthcoming since then. I’m glad that Warren’s on board against the bill again in 2012. Sending out a 102-character tweet was the least he could do. And so he did it.
When all is said and done in this saga, there will be a recounting of the heros and villains and their names will be known for generations to come. Warren’s just a guy selling books and tweeting aphorisms when he could be speaking out forcefully against one of the great human rights crises of our day. He’s no Desmond Tutu, but I’m can’t say he’s in the company of villains either. Bonhoeffers are sadly scarce when they’re needed most; it’s the Chamberlains who are much too common. And that’s Warren’s problem. He is much too common.
Where Are The Religious Leaders?
November 27th, 2012
With Uganda poised to pass what would become one of the most draconian anti-gay laws in the world, human rights advocates, LGBT activists, and diplomats from around the globe are lobbying members of the Ugandan government to set aside the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. But there is one set of voices that is conspicuously silent: church leaders. So far, the only religious voices to speak up about it are those who favor its passage, including Scott Lively and the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer. The Family “Research” Council’s Tony Perkins, while not addressing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill directly, praised Uganda over the weekend as “a modern example of a nation prospered by God.” (Perkins had previously lied about what the bill would do if enacted and lobbied Congress against a resolution condemning the bill.)
So far, those are among the few religious leaders speaking up about the bill, all of them supporting it directly or indirectly. And so far, major religious leaders against the bill have been conspicuous by their silence. The HRC called on them to speak up in a press release last week:
“American faith leaders know that calling for the death penalty – or even calling for imprisonment of - an entire community is not in line with Christian values,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “American Christian faith leaders with ties to Uganda, like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes, must reach out to their influential Ugandan friends to ensure that the human rights of Ugandans are not put up to a vote.”
American Christian faith leaders have been active in Uganda for decades and have significant ties to Ugandan political leaders and faith leaders. Such influential American faith leaders, including Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, and voices from the Trinity Broadcasting Network, have a moral obligation to urge their Ugandan friends and allies to condemn the bill. Many of these American faith leaders have shown a commitment to fighting the HIV/AIDs epidemic in Uganda and know passage of this bill would curtail these efforts. Public statements and private conversations by these American faith leaders, if they are done immediately, could save the lives of thousands of Ugandans.
Rick Warren last addressed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in late 2009, when he condemned the bill. Three years is an eternity in politics, and he has been silent since then. Silence will only mean that Scott Lively and Tony Perkins is speaking for them.
Rags To Riches In Africa: Become a Pastor
July 3rd, 2010
Dan Savage was tipped to a Ugandan Pastor that is speaking at a Seattle-area church, and asked me if I knew who he was. I hadn’t heard of him, and neither had any of my Ugandan contacts. So I responded:
I’m afraid I’ve never heard of this guy. Uganda is crawling with evangelical pastors. All it takes is a white shirt and a tin-roof shack somewhere and suddenly you’re a pastor. And in some cases you don’t even need a shack. Just a street corner will do. And if one of them can finagle a trip to the US where Ugandan pastors are very fashionable, they’ve hit the motherlode.
I have no idea whether this Frank Butyai is legitimate. But the larger point stands: becoming a pastor in a desperately poor country has been a proven pathway to riches, so says The Economist:
Ms Wanjiru’s own church, Jesus Is Alive Ministries, is a good example of the new genre. She can draw 100,000 worshippers to a meeting. Add in a visiting televangelist and the number can rise to as many as 500,000. Ms Wanjiru has lived the Pentecostal dream. She is from a poor family of casual labourers and eked out a life as a housemaid and toilet cleaner before working her way up to a marketing job. She then experienced a vision from God calling on her to save Africa. These days videos, CDs and other accessories can be bought from her website using credit cards or phone credit. She makes good use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media. She is not afraid to court controversy, last year baptising the boss of the Mungiki organised-crime outfit, Maina Njenga. Mr Njenga’s gang had been involved in extortion and had a history of hacking off the heads of its enemies.
But the business of owner-operated churches is competitive. A few dud sermons and the crowd thins. That is one reason why they are so upbeat and aspirational. …However, there is also plenty of hucksterism. You will be blessed with health and wealth by God, congregants are told, especially if you give generously. As in other parts of the world, the new churches in Kenya and Uganda provide a place for the ambitious poor to get ahead….
Get ahead, indeed. The sight of Ugandan pastors driving Humvees and other expensive SUV’s is not uncommon. And of course, you can’t talk about Evangelical pastors in Africa without mentioning Martin Ssempa:
A Ugandan Pentecostal preacher, Martin Ssempa, for instance, has mined a rich seam of homophobia in Uganda to help build up his standing. He and other Pentecostals pushed for the tabling of an anti-homosexuality bill in the Ugandan parliament, which advocates spying on gays and proscribes imprisonment for sodomy. Earlier versions of the law called for the death penalty in some instances. [Editor's note: This is incorrect. Despite reports like this to the contrary, the bill has never been officially modified to remove the death penalty.] Mr Ssempa has in the past had ties with a prominent American evangelical, Rick Warren (who has condemned the anti-gay law), and with Uganda’s born-again first lady, Janet Museveni. “In Africa sodomy is an abomination,” he says. Some of his actions, such as screening gay pornography to his congregants, look clownish and self-publicising, but Mr Ssempa has been astute in targeting students at Makere, Uganda’s best university.
Ugandan Pastors Demand Apology from Rick Warren
December 21st, 2009
In a letter sent sent to Warren, with copies provided to Christianity Today and Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton, the four pastors write on behalf of a task force which met in the offices of the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, who has been an ardent supporter of the bill. The pastors say that the bill has been “greatly misrepresented” and describes Warren’s opposition to the bill as “unwarrented abuse.”
This bill has been greatly misrepresented by some homosexual activists causing hysteria and we take this opportunity to give you the background, facts and response to the concerns you raised. A special meeting of 20 denominational heads met on Thursday 17th Dec in the offices of the minister of Ethics and Integrity, examined your letter and formed a joint task force to respond to you as well as help support the parliament in the passage of this bill. We are further distressed by your unwarranted abuse of our duly elected officials who are in the process of making laws in the fulfillment of their mission and make demand that you biblically issue an apology for having wronged us as demonstrated by the facts of this letter. [Emphasis in the original]
The letter is very similar to a separate letter sent to Christianity Today, complete with wholesale misrepresentations of what the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would actually provide. We have posted the full text of the bill online where you can see its provisions for yourself. They include:
- Expanding the definitions for homosexual acts, making conviction easier. Current law requires evidence of penetration. The new law would expand the definition of homosexual activity to “touch(ing) another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.” Touching itself is defined as “touching—(a) with any part of the body; (b) with anything else; (c) through anything; and in particular includes touching amounting to penetration of any sexual organ. anus or mouth.
- Affirming Uganda’s lifetime imprisonment for those convicted of homosexuality.
- Defining a new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” for those who engage in sex with someone under the age of 18, who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender” (so broadly defined as to include anyone who has had a relationship with more than one person, or who had sex with the same person more than once), or who had sex with a disabled person (consensual or not). The penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” is death by hanging.
- Requiring anyone arrested on suspicion of homosexuality to undergo HIV testing to determine the individual’s qualification for prosecution of “aggravated homosexuality.”
- Criminalizing “attempted homosexuality” with imprisonment of seven years.
- Criminalizing all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda with fines and imprisonment of between five and seven years.
- Criminalizing the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
- Addding a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment of up to three years.
- Penalizing landlords and hotel owners with five to seven years imprisonment for renting to LGBT people.
- Adding an extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.
- Voiding all international treaties, agreements and human rights obligations which conflict with this bill.
There is an additional ominous note in this letter that is not found in the previous letter published by Christianity Today. In describing the developments in Uganda which they say justify the draconian measure specified in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, they single out an individual Ugandan blogger, GayUganda:
This latest letter, which is reproduced on Warren Throckmorton’s web site, demands that Warren issues an apology and sets a deadline:
Your letter has caused great distress and the pastors are demanding that you issue a formal apology for insulting the people of Africa by your very inapropriate bully use of your church and purpose driven pulpits to coerse us into the “evil” of Sodomy and Gaymorrah. This is expected within seven days from this date.
The letter, at least as it is reproduced on Throckmorton’s web site, does not appear to be dated.
Ugandan Pastor Responds To Rick Warren’s Statement; Revives “Forced Therapy” Option
December 17th, 2009
Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, who had met several times with Saddleback pastor Rick Warren, is positively livid over Warren’s statement calling on Ugandan pastors to oppose the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. In a letter addressed to Warren (PDF: 88KB/4 pages) and obtained by Christianity Today, Ssempa acknowledges receiving a letter from Warren asking Ugandan pastors to speak out against the bill, and counters with a deliberately misleading and convoluted defense of it.
After nearly three pages of ranting, Ssempa says that two amendments will be proposed for the bill:
At a special sitting of the Uganda Joint Christian Council taskforce sat and reviewed the bill to make comments. We resolved to support the bill with some amendments which included the following:
a. We suggested a less harsher sentence of 20 years instead of the death penalty for pedophilia or aggravated homosexuality.
b. We suggested the inclusion of counseling and rehabilitation being offered to offenders and victims. The churches are willing to provide the necessary help for those who are willing to undergo counseling and rehabilitation.
This revives the forced therapy proposal brought up last March during a three-day anti-gay conference in Kampala. That conference, organized by Stephen Langa of Kampala-based Family Life Network featured Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, Exodus International board member Don Schmierer, and International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Brundidge.
The Ugandan Parliament will reportedly bring the Anti-Homosexuality Bill up for a second reading debate on Friday. It’s unknown whether these proposals will be brought up during that debate.
Ssempa also recounts Warren’s 2008 trip to Uganda in support of the Anglican Church of Uganda’s boycott of the Lambeth Conference over the U.S. church’s ordination of Rev. Gene Robinson as the denomination’s first openly gay bishop. Ssempa lectured Warren:
When you came to Uganda on Thursday, 27 March 2008, and expressed support to the Church of Uganda’s boycott of the pro-homosexual church of England, you stated; “The Church of England is wrong, and I support the Church of Uganda”. You are further remembered to say, “homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus (its) not a human right. We shall not tolerate this aspect at all.”
Ssempa later returns to this subject at the end of his letter with a reference to Warren’s PEACE plan for Africa:
We note with sadness the increasing levels of accepting of the evil of homosexuality. The ordination of Mary Glasspool a Lesbian as a bishop in Los Angeles without any condemnation from you, has increased the widening gap between the global south church in Africa and the global north church in Europe and America. In these increasingly dark days, we encourage you not to give into the temptation to water down what the bible says so as not to offend people. Jesus’s gospel is a stumbling block, and a rock of offfense. Rick you are our friend, we have bought many of your books and have been blessed by them. Do not let the pressure of bloggers and popular media intimidate you into becoming a negotiator for homosexual pedophilia rights in Africa. As you yourself say about evil, — “the Bible says evil has to be opposed. Evil has to be stopped. The Bible does not say negotiate with evil. It says stop it. Stop evil.” Since the bible says that the giant of homosexuality is an “abomination” or a great evil, you cannot achieve the peace plan without a purpose driven confrontation with evil.
Ssempa has been a leading promoter of harsher treatment for that country’s LGBT citizens. He has also accused rival pastors of homosexuality. These allegations were found to be false, and Ssempa found himself under investigation for filing false reports. That investigation was apparently halted when President Yoweri Museveni intervened.
Rick Warren recently distanced himself from Ssempa:
Martin Ssempa does not represent me, my wife Kay, Saddleback Church, nor the Global PEACE Plan strategy. In 2007, we completely severed contact with Mr. Ssempa when we learned that his views and actions were in serious conflict with our own. Our role, and the role of the PEACE Plan, whether in Uganda or any other country, is always pastoral and never political. We vigorously oppose anything that hinders the goals of the PEACE Plan: Promoting reconciliation, Equipping ethical leaders, Assisting the poor, Caring for the sick, and Educating the next generation.
Rick Warren “Vigorously Condemns” Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act
December 10th, 2009
Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren came under tremendous fire for refusing to denounce Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act, saying “it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.” Now Pastor Warren has issued a video encyclical to his fellow pastors in Uganda urging them to speak out forcefully against the bill:
The key points that Warren raised are:
First, the potential law is unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals, requiring the death penalty in some cases. If I am reading the proposed bill correctly, this law would also imprison anyone convicted of homosexual practice.
Second, the law would force pastors to report their pastoral conversations with homosexuals to authorities.
Third, it would have a chilling effect on your ministry to the hurting. As you know, in Africa, it is the churches that are bearing the primary burden of providing care for people infected with HIV/AIDS. If this bill passed, homosexuals who are HIV positive will be reluctant to seek or receive care, comfort and compassion from our churches out of fear of being reported. You and I know that the churches of Uganda are the truly caring communities where people receive hope and help, not condemnation.
Fourth, ALL life, no matter how humble or broken, whether unborn or dying, is precious to God. My wife, Kay, and I have devoted our lives and our ministry to saving the lives of people, including homosexuals, who are HIV positive. It would be inconsistent to save some lives and wish death on others. We’re not just pro-life. We are whole life.
Finally, the freedom to make moral choices and our right to free expression are gifts endowed by God. Uganda is a democratic country with remarkable and wise people, and in a democracy everyone has a right to speak up. For these reasons, I urge you, the pastors of Uganda, to speak out against the proposed law.
UPDATE: To be honest, when I posted this, I was speechless — literally. Which is why I didn’t write anything personally. Now that I’ve had a chance to reflect on it, I’m simply overjoyed. This statement, in its forcefullness and clarity, is what we’ve been waiting for. I’ve been wating for clarity like this since last February when I first warned of the then-planned anti-gay conference in Kampala. Now, those who support this bill — or any form of criminalization of homosexuality for that matter — will have to defend themselves in opposition to Pastor Warren’s statement.
It doesn’t get any better than this. Well, yes it does: we’re still looking for that day when this bill is finally withdrawn from Parliament.
Rachel Maddow: Should US Politicians Try To Stop The “Kill Gays” Bill?
December 5th, 2009
Rachel Maddow last night reviewed the role that Rick Warren has played in Uganda, including his siding with the Ugandan Anglican Church against the U.S. Episcopal Church over the ordination of gay clergy and bishops even though Warren’s background is Baptist.
Maddow also reviewed the role that several U.S. politicians — specifically Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) — in their own meddling in Uganda’s political affairs, mostly in changing Uganda’s previously successful fight against AIDS by insisting on abstinence only education. These politicians, it should be noted, are also all members of the secretive Evangelical group The Family, which seeks to “take over” (in Family leader Doug Coe’s words) the political, business and other power spheres around the world in a sort of “trickle down” national salvation plan, as opposed to focusing on individual salvation that is at the core of orthodox Christianity.
Rachel’s panel last night consisted of Congressman Anthony Wiener (D-NY); Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University; and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. She asked them a very pertinent question:
“Is it reasonable to expect that American politicians who have been, frankly, pretty interventionist in Uganda in the past, should be trying to stop the ‘kill the gays’ bill there?”
Seven Mountains Theology At the Heart of Uganda’s “Kill Gays” Bill
December 4th, 2009
Yesterday, Warren Throckmorton began delving into the “Seven Mountains” theology that has surfaced in investigations into American Evangelical ties to the current Anti-Homosexuality Act which has been put before Uganda’s Parliament. Today, Bruce Wilson, of the New Apostolic Reformation Research Group, has published a major exposé on extensive ties between those behind Uganda’s latest draconian proposal and American Evangelicals. Again, “Seven Mountains” theology appears to be at the core.
According to news reports, the Anti-Homosexuality Act was tabled before Parliament on October 14, but that wasn’t the first time discussions surrounding the proposal occurred in the chamber. A transcript of Parliamentary proceedings from April 29, have come to light which show MP David Bahati first introducing the bill before Parliament. This is likely to have been similar to the draft dated April 20, 2009 that we obtained in September. (The current bill is dated September 25.) According to the Parliamentary transcript, the Speaker noted several distinguished visitors in the gallery before turning the floor over to MP Bahati:
Let us hear from hon. Bahati. In connection with the motion he is moving, we have in the gallery Apostle Julius Peter Oyet, Vice-President of the Born Again Federation; Pastor Dr Martin Sempa of the Family Policy Centre; Stephen Langa, Family Life Network; hon. Godfrey Nyakaana; the Mayor of Kampala City Council; Julius, a young boy who was sodomised, and his mother. His story has been in the press. They are all here in the gallery. Please, let us deal with them so that they can leave. There is also George Oundo who came out to speak against homosexuality. Please, let us balance the public good and our good since all of them are important. We shall do them all very quickly. Hon. Bahati.
For longtime BTB readers, many of these names are familiar. Stephen Langa organized the anti-gay conference in Kampala in March featuring three American Anti-Gay activists which ultimately kicked off this latest round of anti-gay vigilantism and, eventually, this bill. Martin Ssempa has enjoyed close ties with many American Evangelicals, most notably Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren. Ssempa has used the latest anti-gay furor to exact revenge against rival pastors by accusing them of homosexuality. Those accusations were unfounded, and Ssempa himself is the subject of a police investigation for filing false reports. George Oundo is the unstable so-called “ex-gay” who participated in several acts of vigilantism in the media.
But one name we haven’t paid much attention to — and should — is that of the self-designated “Apostle” Julius Peter Oyet. He’s vice-president of the Born Again Federation, and umbrella group of some 10,000 Ugandan Pentecostal churches. He is also head of Lifeline Ministries. According to Throckmorton and Wilson, Oyet has gained favor and influence with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni for going to Northern Uganda and praying over territory once controlled by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army. His prayers reportedly resulted in the “miraculous” return of hundreds of child soldiers abducted by the LRA, as well as other fantastic stories of miraculous healings, cleansing of poisoned rivers, casting out demons, and the like.
Oyet is an adherent to “Seven Mountains” theology, a Dominionist theology that calls upon Christians to “establish the Kingdom of God on earth” by claiming possession to “the Seven Mountains of Culture namely: Business, Government, Religion, Family, Media, Education and Entertainment.” Warren Throckmorton explains:
This viewpoint seems to be quite popular among those who follow C. Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation. Wagner is the Presiding Apostle for the International Council of Apostles, a subsidiary of Global Harvest Ministries which admits new apostles by invitation only.
Wagner’s 2008 book Dominion: How Kingdom Action Can Change the World, is described by the publisher as an exploration of “the biblical roots of dominion theology.” According to Wagner, the task of the church is less about individual salvation and more about taking dominion over the culture by reclaiming seven domains: family, business, arts & entertainment, government, media, education, and religion.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, Caleb Lee Brundidge, one of the speakers at that anti-gay conference at Kampala last march, is a member of a group called Extreme Prophetic, which also adheres to Seven Mountains theology.
Bruce Wilson’s report at Talk to Action takes up the thread from there:
Some observers have wondered if Purpose Driven Life author and mega-evangelist Rick Warren has had a role in the globally controversial bill, especially because of Warren’s close association with Ugandan anti-gay activist Martin Ssempa and, more broadly, because Warren has refused to denounce the anti-gay bill.
To little notice, a charismatic network overseen by Warren’s doctoral dissertation advisor, C. Peter Wagner, has played a major role in politically organizing and inspiring the Ugandan legislators who have spearheaded the anti-gay bill.
Wagner is the Convening Apostle in a movement of charismatic networks which has extended its reach from the United States to Uganda, and worldwide. Under its umbrella of authority are virulently anti-gay apostles in the United States and Uganda including Lou Engle of TheCall, who led thousands of young people in a twelve hour November 1, 2008 stadium rally in support of California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition Eight.
The San Diego event closed with Engle, a member of Wagner’s inner circle of “prophets,” calling for Christian martyrs. Peter Wagner heads the New Apostolic Reformation, which he openly touts as an effort to take Christian dominion over the globe by putting “born again” believers around the world under the authority of these apostles and prophets.
Both C. Peter Wagner and Rick Warren want to transform the world, and both have proclaimed the advent of a second Reformation. Wagner calls it the New Apostolic Reformation, while for Rick Warren this is a “purpose driven” effort powered by Warren’s global P.E.A.C.E. Plan. In Uganda both visions for societal transformation appear to include the categorical elimination of homosexuality – by any means.
The word “transform” is key. Wilson identifies Julius Oyet as a one of Wagner’s Apostles, and is featured in one of the movement’s Transformations series of video documentaries. Wilson says these videos “depict cities and even whole nations transformed to earthly utopias when charismatic Christians take control of societal structures and government.” The “Transformations” ideas promoted these videos have spawned Transformation organizations around the world, including the International Transformation Network
Oyet is also identified as being the head of the Uganda division of the College of Prayer International. BTB readers may recall from last month that MP David Bahati, who introduced the Anti-Homosexualty Act into Parliament, and MP Benson Obua-Ogwa, identified as one of the bill’s cosponsors, are core members of the College of Prayer International’s Uganda branch. They were appointed as two of eight MP’s to serve on the Christian “servant leadership team” in Parliament for three years.
Some parts of Wilson’s report covers some of the same ground that we’ve reported, but his well-researched report goes much deeper than anyone has been able to accomplish so far. He does an excellent job of not only tying it all together, but demonstrating how Seven Mountains theology works, as adherents seek to infiltrate the seven spheres of cultural influence — particularly the governmental sphere. He also documents the close ties that these groups have with the President and First Lady of Uganda. For example:
A March 8th, 2007 news release, hosted on the official web site of Republic of Uganda State House, reveals the extent to which the Transformations model is being integrated into Ugandan government policy:
“President Yoweri Museveni and his wife Mrs. Janet Museveni today hosted at State House, Nakasero 2 officials of California based Harvest Evangelism. Founder and President of Harvest Evangelism Mr. Ed Silvoso was accompanied by Mr. Graham Power.” According to the release, the Musevenis discussed with Silvoso and Power “issues pertaining to investment opportunities in the country particularly road construction and the development of infrastructure.”
Ed Silvoso is an apostle in C. Peter Wagner’s International Coalition of Apostles and is CEO of the International Transformation Network (ITN). Janet Museveni has spoken at several Transformation conferences around the world including one hosted by Silvoso’s Argentina-based ministry.
So now we see how Peter Wagner’s “Seven Mountain” theology is having a very real impact in Uganda. And with Rick Warren as Wagner’s protegé, Warren’s refusal to take a stand on the impending disaster in Uganda is starting to make sense. One would think that denouncing such a draconian attempt at criminalization would be easy to denounce, but Warren can’t find it in his heart to do so.
The more we look at the ties between American Evangelicals and Uganda’s political leadership, the more we see the true nature of what the American Evangelical movement has in store for LGBT people if they get their way. One Uganda pastor called the proposal “genocide.” That’s an extreme word describing an extreme situation. But the more we learn, the more it looks like it’s not hyperbole after all. This is real.
Rick Warren’s Traditional Marriage
December 4th, 2009
Jeffery L. Sheler, religion correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, has written a biography of Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren in Prophet of Purpose: The Life of Rick Warren. The most interesting revelation in the biography may well be that Warren’s “traditional” marriage was actually an “arranged” marriage of sorts:
Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the biography, however, is the section about Warren’s marriage. By all appearance and comments from people who know the couple, Rick and y Warren have a happy and satisfying marriage. However, this was far from the truth in the beginning of the relationship.
Through interviews with Sheler, Rick and Kay Warren disclosed that they were not attracted to each other nor had feelings for each other when they agreed to be married. Instead, they believed that God had spoken to each of them saying this is the person they should marry.
Rick recalled the day when he was invited to speak at the church where Kay’s father was a pastor. As he ascended the steps to the stage to speak he looked over and recognized Kay, who was then dating his best friend, playing the piano. He said he heard God clearly tell him that this is who he will marry. At the time he had a hard time believing that because he didn’t love Kay and she was madly in love with his best friend. But still he kept the revelation in mind.
After his best friend broke up with Kay, Rick asked her on a date. On their second date, Rick asked Kay to marry him. At the time, Kay didn’t love Rick but felt that God was leading her to say yes. She recalled hearing God say, “I’ll bring the feelings.”
…On their wedding day, the two were “virtual strangers,” Sheler writes. They also had a horrible honeymoon and suffered intensely from misunderstandings and other marital problems in the beginning of their marriage. The stress from the marriage problems coupled with Rick’s workload was so bad that he ended up in the hospital. Meanwhile, Kay said that she didn’t believe in divorce so she felt that she was sentenced to a life of suffering.
So man who marries a woman he doesn’t know and doesn’t love, who is a “virtual stranger” to her and she to him on the night of their wedding, and who had a horrible honeymoon because of it — that’s the guy who thinks that loving, committed gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry.
I just had to write that all out in case anyone missed the irony. And having written it, I now have to away and collect the pieces of my brain that just exploded. Be back in a few.
Rick Warren refuses to oppose Uganda’s “Kill Gays” bill
November 29th, 2009
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, has a unique way of viewing a global ministry. Warren sees his mission as being of a scope that does not stop at national borders. He seeks Purpose Driven Nations to comprise his Purpose Driven World.
And Warren is not hesitant to interfere in international religious divisions or schisms. Though not Anglican, he has been a major player in providing American support to African Anglicans who are seeking to oust any affiliates from the Anglican Communion that make any accommodation for gay Christians.
Warren also likes to rub shoulders with the politically powerful. He is friends with presidents and the powerful around the globe. And one of the five steps in his Plan is “Equipping ethical leaders”, i.e. those who agree with Warren’s religious views.
And he’s no stranger to activism on behalf of legislation. Though he was not highly visible in supporting Proposition 8, he did not hesitate to instruct his flock – which does not stop at the walls of his church – to vote to take away the civil rights of their gay neighbors.
But Warren has now found the one exception to his political involvement. And that exception is the proposed Ugandan “Kill Gays” bill. Unlike virtually anything else that flickers across his attention, this piece of legislation just doesn’t rise to the level of requiring his involvement. That would be “interfering in the political process of other nations.”
Or maybe Rick Warren just doesn’t find it unethical on the part of leadership in Uganda to execute HIV positive gay people, incarcerate the rest for life, ban any form of activism that might object, and jail those family, friends, or acquaintances who fail to report their gay loved ones to the government.
On Meet the Press this morning he spoke a good game of loving gay people (while fighting against their rights). But though he declared that his “role is to love everybody” (which presumably would include gay Ugandans), this love seems not to stretch quite enough to oppose their execution and life-long incarceration.
And Newsweek’s Kate Dailey is noting Warren’s failure to respond to the situation in Uganda:
But Warren won’t go so far as to condemn the legislation itself. A request for a broader reaction to the proposed Ugandan anti-homosexual laws generated this response: “The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.” On Meet the Press this morning, he reiterated this neutral stance in a different context: “As a pastor, my job is to encourage, to support. I never take sides.” Warren did say he believed that abortion was “a holocaust.” He knows as well as anyone that in a case of great wrong, taking sides is an important thing to do.
I would go further.
When you build the platform, put out the chairs, advertise the event, set up the audio system, introduce the speaker, and hand him the mic, it’s disingenuous to claim that you are not taking sides. Rick Warren was significantly responsible for building Martin Ssempa’s influence in Uganda, and releasing a statement that he had “severed contact with Mr. Ssempa” two years ago is not an adequate reaction to Ssempa’s efforts to incarcerate and kill gay people.
The truth is that while Rick Warren speaks of loving gay people, he doesn’t care if they are executed in Uganda for being gay. Or, at least, he doesn’t care enough to make the slightest effort to stop it.
I guess his life is “driven” by some other “purpose”.
Uganda Parliament, Religious Leaders Weigh Death Penalty for LGBT People
November 2nd, 2009
As we reported last week, several Ugandan Christian leaders have spoken out on the Anti-Homosexuality Act which has been introduced in that nation’s Parliament, but their statements have largely been in full support with the bill – with a few reservations about the proposed death penalty for “serial offenders” and those who are HIV-positive. Those comments were made during discussions in a Parliament committee.
We’ve learned more details of those committee discussions held on October 28. Participants included members of Parliament David Bahati and Benson Obua Ogwal who are co-sponsors of the bill, and Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba-Buturo. Invited speakers included:
- The Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye, provincial secretary of the Anglican Church of Uganda;
- John Kakembo, of the Seventh Day Adventist Church;
- Dr. Joseph Sserwadda, representing the nation’s Pentecostal churches;
- Prof. Peter Matoyu, a university professor representing the Metropolitan Orthodox Church of Kampala.
- Sheikh Mohammad Ali, representing the Muslim Mufti of Uganda;
MP David Bahati, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, insisted that homosexuality was not a human right but “a bad habit.” He also repeated much of the false “science” promulgated by American anti-gay extremists, including the false charge that the life expectancy of gays are twenty-years shorter than that of non-gays. MP Bahati’s repeated most of his points in support of his bill in a column that appeared in yesterday’s Observer, in which he called the bill “a nice piece of legislation“:
Uganda is not a copycat of other countries. We can’t do what other countries are doing—especially when such countries are doing the wrong things. The fact that the moral fabric in America and Europe has been put under siege by the supporters of this creeping evil of homosexuality should not suggest that we should follow suit.
And I think supporting the cause of this Bill will provide Uganda as a country an opportunity to provide leadership in this area of safeguarding the traditional family. I must also point out that this Bill is not about hate or discrimination. We are not involved in a hate campaign.
…But ever since we tabled this Bill, we have come under attack. People have argued that we are promoting a hate campaign against homosexuals. And these attacks are coming mostly from civil society members who claim that homosexuality is a human right.
These same groups have persistently continued to place this evil in the category of human rights. They have rallied people to resist the Bill. They argue that we are targeting homosexuals, we hate them. But some of the people behind these messages are mothers and respectable people in our country.
…On top of this are the NGOs that are hugely involved in recruiting and giving money to our young children with the intention of swaying them into this evil practice.
But Uganda will never exchange her dignity for money. While we are poor in terms of finances, we are extremely rich in dignity. And we will never accept homosexuality for the sake of appeasing other countries or as an incentive for their money.
MP Bahati reviewed what his draconian bill would do. If passed, it would:
- Reaffirm the lifetime sentence currently provided upon conviction of homosexuality, and extends the definition from sexual activity to merely “touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.”
- Create a new category of “aggravated homosexuality” which provides for the death penalty for “repeat offenders” and for cases where the individual is HIV-positive.
- Provides compensation for “victims” of homosexuality. This provision would encourage an accused’s consensual partner to claim that he or she was a “victim,” not only to escape criminal penalties, but also to demand compensation from his or her partner.
- Expand the definition of homosexuality to include “touching.” Current law requires proof of penetration. The proposed law would dramatically lower the burden of proof for penalties involving lifetime sentences or even death.
- Criminalizes all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda with fines and imprisonment of between five and seven years.
- Criminalizes the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
- Adds a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment of up to three years.
- Adds an extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.
Death Sentence Provisions Questioned
The Parliamentary committee heard from several of Uganda’s religious leaders, beginning with Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye, provincial secretary of the Anglican Church of Uganda. As has been widely reported, he spoke out against only one provision of the bill, the section which provides the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”. The pro-government newspaper New Vision quoted Mwesigye this way:
“Can death as a form of punishment help one to reform? Some people are convicted of murder but after they have been killed, it’s proved they were innocent. What would be done in such circumstances? We should emphasize life imprisonment.”
Mwesigye also questioned the wisdom of the extra-territorial provisions in the bill, saying that those provisions might not be practical. Otherwise, he was complementary of the bill overall, but suggested that some portions of the bill didn’t go far enough. For example, on the section providing compensation for “victims,” he suggested that secondary victims — spouses, parents, and children of those who claim to have been seduced — also deserve compensation.
John Kakembo, of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, also questioned the death sentence, but otherwise praised the bill. He also repeated Mwesigye’s suggestion that the definition of victims be expanded for compensation. He justified this by calling all gay people predatory, claiming that he was targeted by foreigners when he was younger.
Themes of rampant criminality and wild predatory practices are extremely common in portrayals of LGBT people in Uganda. Prof. Peter Matoyu, who was representing the Metropolitan Orthodox Church of Kampala made some very incendiary and fanciful charges along those lines. He claimed that while a student in the U.S., a professor forced him to pretend that he and other Ugandan students were gay as part of their studies, and that they were in danger of being murdered by American gays if their ruse were discovered. This rhetoric only feeds the anti-gay frenzy that frequently grips the nation.
Government support for proposed legislation
Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba-Buturo also spoke before the committee, and said that while the proposed act was highly controversial, he assured the panel that its passage would give Uganda a place of honor among civilized nations.
This is significant, as Nsaba-Buturo appears to have the full backing of President Yoweri Museveni, who, in Uganda’s paper-thin trappings of democratic functioning, is the real power in the country after having overthrown his predecessor in a civil war in 1986. In a statement released on the official web site of the Office of the President, Nsaba-Buturo has already warned Uganda’s media against “promoting homosexuality,” reminding them that a new law was being proposed to make all advocacy or positive portrayal of homosexuality tantamount to pornography and become subject to criminal penalties. This is no idle threat; Uganda’s press is not entirely free and the government has very recently shut down several broadcasters that have been critical of government policies.
“Total support” for the death penalty
While some Ugandan Christian leaders have expressed reservations about the death penalty provisions – while being perfectly happy with lifetime imprisonment for being gay, at least one prominent Uganda preacher has given the new law his total support. Martin Ssempa of Makerere Community Church was not at the parliamentary meeting, but he did send a statement to Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton in which he offered his “total support of the bill and would be most grateful if it did pass.”
Ssempa enjoys close ties to Uganda’s First Lady, Janet Museveni, and as been tied to US pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church. In 2005, Warren described Ssempa as “his indispensable sidekick,” but now he appears to be reeling back his support for the Ugandan megachurch pastor. In a statement released to Warren Throckmorton, Rick Warren wrote:
Martin Ssempa does not represent me, my wife Kay, Saddleback Church, nor the Global PEACE Plan strategy. In 2007, we completely severed contact with Mr. Ssempa when we learned that his views and actions were in serious conflict with our own.
Rev. Warren also enjoys close ties with Uganda’s First Lady and he had recently named Uganda a “Purpose Driven Nation.”
We do not know the Uganda President’s position on this bill. While his very prominent Minister of Ethics and Integrity had taken a very personal interest in this bill almost immediately following an anti-gay conference in Kampala by three American anti-gay activists, there has been no official statement from the President’s office. Almost all important bills are introduced by the President directly, but this proposed legislation is what’s called a “private member” bill. This has led some to suspect that President Museveni may be hedging his bets to gauge international reaction.
Rick Warren Buddies Up to Anti-Gay Ex-Episcopalians
June 23rd, 2009
In the past couple of years Episcopalians that were furious with their church for ordaining a gay Bishop broke away. Calling themselves Anglicans, they attached themselves to some of the biggest homophobes in Christianity in Africa and South America. All along, they’ve received encouragement from author and “America’s Pastor”, Rick Warren.
This week the break-aways held their first national assembly and Rick Warren jumped at the chance to speak. Warren told the group – who’s sole commonality is opposition to full inclusion of gay people in the church:
“We are to love the people of the world no matter what they believe; we are to not love the value system of the world. And the problem today is lot of Christians are getting that reversed. They love the value system and hate the people”
Those of us familiar with anti-gay activism recognize this type of “love” to be an empty code word for exclusion, condemnation, and political oppression. And by “hating the people”, conservatives mean that those who see God’s welcome to include gay men and women are “hating” them by “allowing them to live in sin.”
Warren’s continued affiliation with anti-gay Anglicans only confirms the fear and betrayal that the community felt when he was selected to speak at President Obama’s inauguration.
A (Partial) Defense of Rick Warren
This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
April 14th, 2009
It seems inconceivable that Pastor Rick Warren would tell Larry King that he “never once even gave an endorsement” of Proposition 8. We all had seen him on TV. He had prepared a video to his church specifically instructing them that he supported Prop 8.
What was he thinking?
Well, I sort of understand what Warren was saying. And while not technically correct, he wasn’t that far off.
We think of Rick Warren as anti-gay – because he does not support equality. But Warren doesn’t see himself that way at all – because he doesn’t actually advocate against gay rights.
The leaders of Proposition 8 would have loved to have Warren as part of the team. He has a huge church, a prominent position in Christendom, and respect from non-believers. If Warren had wanted to, he could have mobilized a much larger volunteer base and generated millions more in contributions. He chose not to.
He answered a question in an interview and he videotaped a message to his church. Compared to what he could have done, this was minimal. So in his mind, he was never an anti-gay marriage activist.
But there are two reasons why Warren is misunderstanding the extent of his role:
- The strength of the language used in the interview was excessive. He could have just chuckled and said, “Well now as a Christian minister, of course I support the traditional definition of marriage”. No one would have been surprised and there would have been almost no reaction.But he made comparisons to incest, polygamy, and child molestation.
And even if those were unintentional comparisons that he later regretted, once they are out then you have an obligation to correct the situation. And writing to some “gay friends” doesn’t tell Californians that Rick Warren thinks that gay marriage is different from marrying your sister.
- Warren told his church his opinion on the Proposition. He sought to influence votes on a civil matter using his authority as the shepherd of his flock.
Rick Warren may not have intended to be an anti-gay marriage activist, but his behavior put him in that position.
And Warren’s long history of supporting and affiliating with some of the most brutally anti-gay forces in Africa place him – at least – as an enabler of anti-gay bigotry and human rights violations.
But now the good news and the defense of Rick Warren.
Warren is highly respected. He is considered “America’s Pastor”.
And America’s Pastor has just made it clear to America that there is something a bit shameful and embarrassing about being an anti-gay activist. His statements tell Christians – and voters – that one can have a view about homosexuality based on one’s religious beliefs without having to be politically anti-gay. That one can be a Christian without having to set aside time and money to go after gay folk.
And this is a message that it is very good for Christians in America to hear today: Rick Warren doesn’t want to be an anti-gay activist… and you shouldn’t either.
Rick Warren’s Nose Grew Much, Much Bigger
April 7th, 2009
Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren appeared on Larry King last night and claimed that he had never endorsed California’s Prop 8 during the campaign, and that he had never compared same-sex marriage to incest, polygamy or child molestation — despite the fact that both statements what he claimed to have never made are widely available on the Internet.
Concerning Warren’s “non-endorsement” of Prop 8, Rick Warren told Larry King:
Yes, you know, Larry, there was a story within a story that never got told. In the first place, I am not an anti-gay or anti-gay marriage activist. I never have been, never will be. During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never — never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop 8 was going.
The week before the — the vote, somebody in my church said, Pastor Rick, what — what do you think about this? And I sent a note to my own members that said, I actually believe that marriage is — really should be defined, that that definition should be — say between a man and a woman. And then all of a sudden out of it, they made me, you know, something that I really wasn’t.
After a commercial break, Warren was asked again about his role in Prop 8. He replied:
I never campaigned for it. I never — I’m not an anti-gay activist — never have been. Never participated in a single event. I just simply made a note in a newsletter. And, of course, everything I write it’s — it’s (INAUDIBLE).
But before the election, Rick Warren sent his little note to his members in the form of a professionally-produced video on the World Wide Web for all the World Wide to see.
Warren also told King that he had never compared gay relationships to incest, polygamy or child molestation:
There were some things said that — you know, everybody should have 10 percent grace when they say public statements. And I was asked a question that made it sound like I equated gay marriage with pedophilia or incest, which I absolutely do not believe.
But as we reported in December when he made those comments, this is what he said:
Rick Warren: But the issue to me is, I’m not opposed to that as much as I’m opposed to the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.
Steven Waldman: Do you think, though, that they are equivalent to having gays getting married?
Rick Warren: Oh I do.
He then went on about his “many gay friends” — whose relationships are in the same league as incest, child molestation and polygamy — and he did so again on Larry King last night:
Rick Warren: All of the criticism came from people that didn’t know me.
Larry King: Well…
Rick Warren: Not a single criticism came from any gay leader who knows me and knows that for years, we’ve been working together on AIDS issues and all these other things.
We are still waiting to hear from Rick Warren’s “many gay friends” or from a gay leader who knows him. Ill-informed entertainers don’t count.
Saddleback’s New Definition, Courtesy Of Dan Savage
January 28th, 2009
Gay sex advice columnist and author Dan Savage isn’t known for holding back against people he views as enemies of the LGBT community. Angered by anti-gay comments made by former Senator Rick Santorum, Savage named a rather disgusting and previously un-named phenomenon relating to anal-sex after him. Performing a Google search on “Santorum” turns up Savage’s definition as the top item.
And now we get to Savage’s recent anger with Rick Warren of Saddleback Church. What is a “Saddleback” exactly? Savage wasn’t sure it had any definition so he took it upon himself to create one. After polling his readers Savage has announced his new definition of Saddleback / Saddlebacking:
Savage finds this new definition apropos because of Warren’s ideological promotion of abstinence-only programs which not only don’t work, but result in teens substituting anal-sex and oral-sex believing they aren’t “real” sex.
Gene Robinson’s Invocation Shoved Into HBO’s Closet
January 18th, 2009
When the Obama Inaugural committee announced that the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal Bishop, would deliver the invocation at the “We Are The One” concert at the Lincoln Memorial, it was seen as an olive branch to the gay community, still seething over the selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation for the Inauguration itself.
The announcement that Rick Warren was selected came just days after Warren compared gay relationships to incest, child rape and polygamy. But by pointing out that Rev. Robinson’s invocation would come at the start of the HBO-aired live concert in front of one of America’s best-loved memorials, this high-profile announcement was portrayed as a separate-but-almost-equal bookend to Warren’s invocation at the Capital steps.
Well, except it turned out not to be nearly so equal. In yet another deep insult to injury, HBO did not air Rev. Robinson’s invocation. The salve to the gay community meant to calm the outrage over Warren’s selection was for naught. Hundreds of millions around the world will hear Warren’s invocation on Tuesday. But today, the only ones to hear Rev. Robinson’s prayer were those thousands who were present at the mall. Robinson’s prayer wasn’t aired live, nor was it aired during the 7:00 p.m. rebroadcast.
And guess what else was shoved into the closet? The D.C. Gay Men’s Chorus singing with Josh Groban. Unlike every other performer, they came and went without being identified.
These snubs are inexcusable. Did HBO cave in the face of conservative outcries over Rev. Robinson’s selection for this event? Did the Inaugural committee rush Rev. Robinson onstage and off before the broadcast was slated to begin? Whatever the case may be, this is a cold slap. HBO has some serious explaining to do, as does the Inaugural committee.
Harvey Milk is screaming in his metaphorical grave right now.
Update: HBO says they’re not to blame for Rev. Robinson’s omission.
Open Letters to Rick Warren from Faith In America
January 17th, 2009
Spurred on by the Warren controversy, Faith In America has launched a new project, “Can You Understand the Harm?”, which includes videos of founder Mitchell Gold of Hickory, N.C., and Tracey Zoeller of Chicago, IL. The videos and open letters are directed to Rev. Rick Warren and other faith leaders, and they were written to explain the “harm caused to gay Americans by religion-based bigotry, prejudice and discrimination.”
Mitchell Gold is the author of Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America. He is also the founder of Faith In America. Here he is reading his open letter to Rick Warren:
Tracey Zoeller is the author of the young adult novel, The Pastor’s Daughter.
In addition, Faith In America collected more than twenty letters (PDF: 420 KB/19 pages) to send to Warren.
Civil Rights Leader To Rick Warren: I Must Assume You Do Not Care About Religion-Based Bigotry
January 17th, 2009
As a medical student in Nashville from 1957 to 1961, Rodney Powell became a student protest leader in the African-American civil rights movement. Since then, Dr. Powell has continued his activism in support of African-Americans and LGBT Americans.
In this video, Dr. Powell find it “astounding” that Rev. Rick Warren was invited to deliver the keynote address on Sunday at a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration service at King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta: “Mr. Warren, I do not believe that Dr. King would find your spiritual leadership unifying, and I’m certain he would not find it part of his vision for America as a beloved community. … Your pastoral leadership would not please Dr. King, and it certainly does not honor him.”
Rodney Powell serves on the board of directors of Faith In America.
Hitler, Lenin , Mao, and Warren: “Whatever It Takes”
January 16th, 2009
If there’s any question about whether Rick Warren is interested in power rather than faith, just watch this:
Gay Former Clinton Aide Furious Over Rick Warren
January 14th, 2009
David Gilgoff at U.S. News and World Reports mistrusts LGBT leaders’ ability to speak for the gay community (he generally distrusts leaders of any movement, not just LGBT). So he was wondering if the rank-and-file were as mollified over Obama’s invitation to Gene Robinson as the LGBT leaders seemed to be, or were they still upset over Rick Warren giving the inaugural invocation. “Without polls, it’s really impossible to know,” he explained.
But he is getting a lot of angtry comments from LGBT people who aren’t happy with their self-appointed leaders. One came from a former Clinton White House aide:
… [T]he problem here goes well beyond Warren’s incendiary language equating gay marriage with incest. He is what he is. The greater problem lies in the President-Elect’s cruel calculation that this insult and offense to gay America is acceptable collateral damage for whatever plus he sees in the suck-up to Warren, giving profile and platform to this mega-merchant of discrimination in the first program agenda item during the first official act of his first day in office. I was one of the 12 first-ever openly gay White House staff members to take up work the day following President Clinton’s inauguration. His respect for gay Americans was evident even when setbacks and disappointments slowed the change agenda, and he certainly did not deliberately nor unnecessarily scheme to sell out gay Americans on his first day in office to score points with opponents. Ordinary gay Americans will need to hold this new Administration to the tenets of its campaign and to the idealism of its Inaugural language — and to a fundamental expectation for respect. The Warren invitation remains a disgrace and a blemish on day one of the new Administration. Shame on Obama.
Meanwhile, Nancy Goldstein thinks the Robinson choice was “too little, too late.”