The head of a Kansas City, Mo.-based ministry on Thursday issued a formal apology after discovering that the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill was promoted during his prayer event in Uganda.
"After returning home, I was told that the Bill had been clearly promoted after I left the meeting," said Lou Engle of TheCall. "I apologize that this took place and that my stated purpose of not promoting the Bill was compromised. I take responsibility for what was done on the stage of TheCall, even in my absence."
Just before heading into TheCall's charismatic prayer and fasting gathering in the East African country last month, Engle had released a statement expressing concerns with the pending bill, which would impose a life sentence in prison or the death penalty on those convicted of "aggravated homosexuality" (such as unlawful homosexual rape of a child or handicapped invalid) or who are HIV-positive.
While taking a clear stand on biblical truth, upholding traditional marriage, Engle emphasized that TheCall would not be promoting the bill during the Uganda prayer event.
But several media reports revealed that speakers throughout the event advocated for the bill.
"We call on parliament not to debate heaven. We call on them to pass the bill and say no to homosexuality," preached Julius Oyet, a pastor with Life Line Ministries in Uganda, according to Religion Dispatches. Oyet spoke just before Engle took the stage. Though he did not promote the measure, he also did not contest Oyet's support for it.
Engle's apology has left one Christian professor, who has rallied believers in opposition to the legislation, confused.
"Why apologize for what happened in your absence if you don't apologize for what happened in your presence?" asked Dr. Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.
Engle had to leave the prayer meeting early to catch a flight back home.
Throckmorton was further confused by the ministry leader's statement as it suggested that Engle supports an Anti-Homosexuality Bill with lesser penalties.
"It appears that Engle favors criminalization in that he commends those involved with The Call Uganda for seeking to lessen, but not eliminate the penalties," Throckmorton noted.
According to his statement Thursday, Engle explained that he met with Christian leaders in Uganda and found "not one" of them to be "carrying even an ounce of hatred for homosexuals."
"They actually desired to influence the lawmakers in Uganda to lessen the penalties," he said. "However, they were committed to raise up a principled stand to protect their people and their children from an unwelcome intrusion of homosexual ideology into an 83 percent Christian nation."
"I appealed to them that in all their labor and their stand they express the mercy of Christ to broken people, but I also stood with them in their desire to not succumb to the political ideological pressures of the West and many of the voices of the Western Church that have come strongly against them," he added.
"These brothers in Uganda will give an account to the Lord on how sternly they stood as a prophetic community in their nation and we, the Church of the West, will give an account for our response when homosexual ideology swept into our nations."
Since the bill was introduced last year by Ugandan legislator David Bahati, a number of Christian organizations and evangelical pastors have spoken out against it, including Exodus International and Pastor Rick Warren. While affirming that marriage is intended to be between one man and one woman, they have condemned the criminalization of homosexuality.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda and can be punished with life imprisonment but the new legislation was designed to "fill the gaps" in the provisions of existing laws and "strengthen the nation's capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the traditional heterosexual family."
The bill introduces the death penalty and also threatens to penalize those who support gay organizations or who know about a homosexual and fail to report it to authorities.