A ministry that has drawn fire for its upcoming fasting and repentance event in Uganda released a statement Wednesday, setting the record straight on its stance on an anti-homosexuality bill.
"TheCall has been wrongfully marked and vilified as an organization promoting hatred and violence against homosexuals and as one that supports the Uganda bill as currently written," said Lou Engle, who heads the Kansas City, Mo.-based organization.
"To the contrary, we have never made a private or a public statement of support for that bill."
TheCall is scheduled to hold its signature charismatic prayer and fasting gathering in Uganda on Sunday. But some believe the event will fuel homophobia in the East African country where a bill that would impose the death penalty on those convicted of "aggravated homosexuality" is pending.
Dr. Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, is concerned that the weekend event could have the same kind of impact that last year's conference on "Exposing the Truth behind Homosexuality and the Homosexual Agenda" had. The conference, which involved three American speakers, was criticized for pushing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which was introduced months later.
Sexual Minorities Uganda released a plea last week to keep TheCall from taking place.
"In the context of an already inflamed extremist religious movement against homosexuality in Uganda sparked off by American evangelicals, the inflammatory preaching of Lou Engle and his associates is likely to incite further violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in Uganda," the group stated.
On its website, TheCall Uganda urges corporate prayers and repentance as the country faces such challenges as "witchcraft, homosexuality and increased immorality," among others.
TheCall says it holds a biblical stance on matters of sexuality and upholds traditional marriage, but Engle clarified on Wednesday that promoting hatred toward the homosexual community was never their intent.
In fact, when TheCall was invited to go to Uganda to host an event where people would confess their personal and national sins and pray for a spiritual awakening, the ministry had no knowledge at the time of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Engle said.
After being "thrust" into an international controversy, Engle offered some clarification and expressed opposition to the measure.
"Though we honor the courage and stand with the stated purpose of the many Church leaders in Uganda who are seeking to protect the traditional and biblical family foundations of the nation, we have serious concerns with the bill as presently written, especially in terms of some of the harsh penalties for certain homosexual behaviors or offenses," he stated.
"Though TheCall is not afraid to take a clear stand on biblical truth on matters of sexuality, we are deeply concerned that TheCall ministry would not wrongfully reflect the character of Christ, and we do not see the character of Christ reflected in some key aspects of the language of the current bill."
TheCall will still go on as planned in Uganda, he noted. However, the ministry will not promote the bill, he added.
"[W]e challenge the Church of Uganda to join with Christians around the world, to first examine our own moral failures, confess our own lack of love, and from that heart seek to establish true biblical standards, reflecting compassion for those struggling with same-sex attraction and equal justice for criminal offenses committed by heterosexuals or homosexuals," Engle stated.
Homosexuality is currently illegal in Uganda, but the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced to strengthen the criminalization of the behavior. Those suspected of "aggravated homosexuality" and who are HIV-positive or engage in sexual acts with those under 18 years of age could face life imprisonment or the death penalty. The measure also imposes punishment on those who support gay organizations or who know about a homosexual and fail to report it to authorities.