The Rev. Louie Giglio of Passion City Church in Roswell, Ga., has announced that he is withdrawing from President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony, where he was scheduled to perform the benediction, explaining that he does not wish to be part of a debate on homosexuality at a time when America is deeply divided.
"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," Giglio explained in a letter sent to the White House on Jan. 10, which was shared with The Christian Post. "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."
Just a day earlier, Giglio, 54, had expressed how honored he was to be invited to perform the benediction at Obama's public inauguration ceremony on Jan. 21.
"It is my privilege to have the opportunity to lead our nation in prayer at the upcoming inauguration in Washington, D.C.," Giglio had said.
On Wednesday, however, a report from Thinkprogress came out that featured audio from a mid-90s Giglio sermon, where the pastor said that homosexuality is a sin and that there is an aggressive agenda against traditional family stances.
"We must lovingly but firmly respond to the aggressive agenda of not all, but of many in the homosexual community. … Underneath this issue is a very powerful and aggressive moment. That movement is not a benevolent movement, it is a movement to seize by any means necessary the feeling and the mood of the day, to the point where the homosexual lifestyle becomes accepted as a norm in our society and is given full standing as any other lifestyle, as it relates to family," Giglio said in the sermon referenced by Thinkprogress.
Several other websites picked up the audio and described the Passion City Church founder as "an anti-gay pastor" whose sermon was stirring up controversy, especially in light of President Obama commenting in May 2012 that he now supports same-sex marriage.
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In his Jan. 10 letter to the White House, Giglio explains, however, that he does not wish to be a part of that narrative surrounding homosexuality, and the goals and mission of his ministry are focused on different pursuits.
"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," Giglio wrote. "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."
The Georgia minister, who also founded the well-known Passion Conferences, a movement that has drawn tens of thousands of young people, concluded: "Our nation is deeply divided and hurting, and more than ever need[s] God's grace and mercy in our time of need."
President Obama and Giglio had enjoyed a seemingly good relationship, with Giglio presiding over the Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House last April. Obama has also praised the evangelical Christian minister's campaign to end modern-day slavery. Giglio recently inspired students to raise $3.5 million to support more than 20 global projects that focus on prevention, rescue, and restoration for the 27 million men, women, and children who are victims of slavery.
"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," Giglio remarked in the letter.
Most recently, the Passion pastor led a four-day conference between Jan. 1 and 4 that drew over 60,000 college students in Atlanta, where he talked about the power of God's goodness, grace and love, and how it can move and inspire the world.