Louie Giglio has released a statement saying that he has withdrawn himself from participation in President Obama’s inaugural program (see at bottom). Nevertheless, The New York Times reports that the Obama administration initiated his ouster.
An official with Mr. Obama’s Presidential Inaugural Committee said the committee, which operates separately from the White House, vetted Mr. Giglio. People familiar with internal discussions between administration and committee officials said the White House viewed the selection as a problem for Mr. Obama, and told the panel on Wednesday night to quickly fix it. By Thursday morning, Mr. Giglio said he had withdrawn.
The spokesperson for the president’s inaugural celebration said this in a statement:
We were 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. Pastor Giglio was asked to deliver the benediction in large part for his leadership in combating human trafficking around the world. 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.
All of this seems to indicate that Giglio’s departure was not a unilateral move on his part. The Obama administration said to “fix it,” and apparently they did. Reading between the lines, my own hunch is that the inaugural committee asked Giglio to step aside quietly, and Giglio acquiesced (not unlike the Susan Rice situation).
Yesterday I pointed out that homosexuality/gay marriage is the great litmus test of our day. For some people, your views on the matter determine whether or not you should be allowed to participate in public life. After today’s announcement, Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post made that very point. He writes,
[Giglio] got on the radar because of his work and leadership against human trafficking… But whatever good works Giglio has done in that arena are marred by his anti-gay statements… It is our right not to have an unrepentant bigot be given such a high honor on Inauguration Day.
Ever since Giglio’s inclusion on the program was announced, there has been a steady stream of criticism (as I noted yesterday). Just this morning, Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote a story that appeared on page A16 of the New York Times. It was supposed to be a straight news report, but let’s just say it was less than balanced. The headline was, “Pastor Chosen for Inaugural Was Criticized as Antigay.” The report itself was one-sided and only quoted critics of Giglio, one of whom charged him with “backward views” and another calling him an “antigay bigot.”
[Here’s the statement that Giglio released today on his church’s website.]
Change of Plans
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.
Honored to be your pastor,