(Photo: Tommy Huynh/Saddleback Church)
Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren is being criticized by a pro-family group for recently saying that he would not have made a statement in support of Proposition 8 had he known his remarks would have spread beyond his congregation.
"[Warren] regrets that the statement got out wider than his church. To me, that's incredible because he should be happy that he had influence outside of his church to the whole body of Christ in California -- indeed, to people all over the state voting on the issue who look to him for guidance," Peter LaBarbera, President of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality. told the Christian News Network on Tuesday.
"That's saying that he does not want to be a leader on the homosexual 'marriage' issue," he added.
Pastor Warren visited The Huffington Post Live last week, where he promoted the republication and 10-year anniversary of his bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life, and talked about the subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
"If you disagree with somebody today you're often called a hater," Warren told Huffington Post host Marc Lamont Hill. "I don't really hate anybody. Or you're called 'phobic.' I'm not afraid of anybody. I have many, many gay friends."
On the morality of same-sex attraction, the Saddleback Church pastor said that it was not a sin to love someone, but that "it might be a sin to have sex with them."
When the subject turned to Proposition 8, the 2008 California voter initiative that defined marriage as between one man and one woman and is currently headed to the Supreme Court, Warren expressed some regrets about how his views on the matter had spread beyond his church.
Addressing his congregation in the 2008 video, Warren expressed support for the motion to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. Now, the minister says that he rejects accusations that he "campaigned" for Prop. 8 and that he was telling others how to vote.
"I never made a single statement on Prop. 8 until the week before, and in my own church, some members said, 'Where do we stand on this?'" Warren explained. "I released a video to my members. It was posted all over like it was an advertisement."
The pastor clarified that he would not have spoken out about the issue so close to the sate-wide vote, because he now realizes that it is not just his congregation that hears his messages, but millions around the world.
"It might be disingenuous to say that you have a church of 20,000 people, and you have a book that 32 million people have read and 60 million have accessed," Hill told Warren. "To say that 'I was just giving a message.'"
Warren agreed with that statement, and replied: "I wanted to talk to my own people as a duty, as a shepherd. I'm responsible for those who put themselves under my care. I'm not responsible for everybody else."
"So, I've had to look at how do I communicate to my people in a way that doesn't look like I'm pontificating to the entire world," he added.
LaBarbera argues, however, that Warren should not be thinking that he was "pontificating," but that he was putting out his voice as a spiritual and moral leader on an important issue.
"The question is, are Christian leaders self-segregating on the moral issues because they're under the gun of the pro-gay culture?" LaBarbera asked, and noted that pro-gay activists would never back down from speaking to as many people as possible.
"They're pontificating all the time. They're telling us what to think. They're telling us that we're bigots if we are against homosexuality, or even if we're against same-sex 'marriage' now, they call you a bigot or a hatemonger or a homophobe," the family group leader continued.
"I just wish he would stop backtracking and seeming embarrassed about helping to protect marriage," he concluded. "He doesn't have any qualms about preaching to everybody in the world the need to have compassion for people with AIDS, and he's right about that. But, he also in the same way [should] be outspoken and non-defensive about helping to protect the historic definition of marriage."
In his 2008 video statement, Warren said that only about 2 percent of the American population identifies as homosexual.
"We should not let 2 percent of the population change the definition of marriage that has been supported by every single culture and every single religion for 5,000 years. This is not just a Christian issue – it is a human issue," Warren stated.