Rejected Obama Inauguration Pastor Giglio Tied To Key Ugandan Antigay Church
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 02:09:21 PM EST
A conservative evangelical pastor tapped to give a prayer at a presidential inauguration becomes suddenly controversial when his statements or associations are exposed. We've seen this before. In late 2008 it was Rick Warren, scheduled to give an opening prayer at President Barack Obama's first inauguration, who became the center of controversy, especially for his stance on gay marriage. Warren's disturbing ties to antigay activism in Uganda would become an issue later the same year [1]. Now, it's Louie Giglio. But there's more and worse than what has yet come out on Giglio, who until yesterday had been scheduled to give a benediction at President Barack Obama's second inauguration.
Like Warren, Giglio has ties to the epicenter of anti-LGBTI activism in Uganda. For Warren, it was his partnership with Martin Ssempa and involvement with The Fellowship. For Giglio, it is an association with a key church that supports an eliminationist bill, looming before Uganda's parliament since 2009, that would virtually legislate Uganda's gay community out of existence.

How could it have happened that such a pastor could have been picked to sanctify the inauguration of a president who has taken a bold, if belated stance in support of gay rights?  A few voices familiar with the intersection of  religious right and politics have some thoughts on the Giglio fiasco [1, 2.] But back to Giglio:

On January 9th, 2012, a Thinkprogress report on conservative evangelical megachurch pastor Louie Giglio prompted a firestorm in activist human rights media and by the next day Giglio had been removed from the inaugural program. As Thinkprogress described, in a 1990s sermon pastor Giglio had,

"advocated for dangerous "ex-gay" therapy for gay and lesbian people, referenced a biblical passage often interpreted to require gay people be executed, and impelled Christians to "firmly respond to the aggressive agenda" and prevent the "homosexual lifestyle" from becoming accepted in society."

In a statement [2] addressing his de-listing from the inaugural program, pastor Giglio explained,

"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."

Giglio might have plausibly claimed that his views on homosexuality had evolved since the 1990s sermon, except that his ministry has also, since 2008 (when the Watoto choir sang at Giglio's Passion conference in Kampala) or earlier, had an institutional relationship with a church in the vanguard of Uganda's mounting crusade against LGBTI rights, the Watoto Christian Church -- whose church elder Stephen Langa has played a central role in agitating for the so-called "Kill the Gays" bill that has loomed before Uganda's parliament since 2009.

Langa is now one of four alleged co-conspirators named in lawsuit over a supposed plot to deprive Ugandan LGBTI citizens of their human rights.  

IN 2007, Watoto Christian Church head Gary Skinner told the Uganda Monitor that "We condemn all inhuman practices including homosexuality, prostitution which people are pushing for their legalisation," and Skinner's church appears to support Watoto elder Stephen Langa's eliminationist antigay agenda:

In March 2009, Langa's Family Life Network organization held a now-notorious Kampala, Uganda conference on homosexuality during which American evangelical speakers alleged a vast Western conspiracy against traditional Ugandan family structure, a conspiracy in which wealthy Western homosexuals were said to be bribing Ugandan children to become gay.

One speaker, Scott Lively, also claimed that a subset of "butch" homosexuals was responsible for the Holocaust and was inclined towards committing acts of mass violence and even genocide. Lively claimed Hitler was in the alleged subset. There is no credible evidence Hitler was gay and, in fact, Hitler's Nazis brutally persecuted homosexuals.

While Lively and Langa staged their hateful, propagandistic conference at a local university, they also appear to have held a forum on homosexuality at the Watoto Church. Wrote a gay Uganda blogger,

"The Kampala Pentecostal Church auditorium is full. A couple of thousands, plus. Youths mainly. Ready to learn about the Homosexual agenda in Uganda. The three visitors from America are on stools on the stage. Ready to give their testimonies. Outside, a couple of volunteers from the Family Life Network are armed with pamphlets, ready to give the faithful some of the information that is being condensed in the live event."

Along with Springfield, MA-based evangelist Scott Lively, Stephen Langa is now one of four named co-defendants in a lawsuit, filed by the Ugandan LGBTI rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda on July 13, 2012 in United States District Court, District of Massachusetts Springfield Division, because of the "decade-long campaign he [Lively] has waged, in agreement and coordination with his Ugandan counterparts, to persecute persons on the basis of their gender and/or sexual orientation and gender identity" according to the lawsuit.

Stephen Langa has probably been Scott Lively's closest ally in the antigay campaign. As Lively described in a 2002 ministry report, it was Langa who greeted Lively at the airport during Lively's first, June 2002, trip to Uganda, and Langa orchestrated the itinerary of Lively's stay in the country. Stephen Langa himself has ties to the highest levels of Uganda's government, including Uganda's First Lady Janet Museveni. [3]

Pastor Louie Giglio's suggestion, that gay rights has not been among his "priorities" for for fifteen to twenty years, is indeed born out by the facts. While it would be hard to make a case that pastor Giglio bears any direct responsibility for the Uganda Anti Homosexuality Bill, his association with (and promotion of) the Watoto Christian Church raises serious questions.

Indeed, Giglio seems to have so utterly ignored the issue that even as the Watoto Church was emerging as a hotbed of anti-gay rights activism, the public relations apparatus of Giglio's rapidly growing "Passion" conference, whose 501(c)(3) nonprofit parent ministry was in 2010 was funded with over $12 million dollars, was presenting the Watoto church as an exemplar of philanthropic activism, for the church's efforts to help orphaned Ugandan children.

The development of these parallel tracks, with Giglio's Passion conferences ramping up in tandem with growing anti-LGBTI activism from the Watoto church, and rising persecution of gay Ugandans, is jarring. In late 2009, as international concern was  mounting over the draconian Anti Homosexuality Bill looming before Uganda's parliament, I broke the news [4] that Lou Engle was planning to stage one of his antigay The Call rallies in Kampala, Uganda in May 2010.

Watoto Christian Church (formerly known as the Kampala Pentecostal Church) head pastor Gary Skinner was one of the officially listed endorsers of New Apostolic Reformation prophet Lou Engle's TheCall rally. [5] The website of TheCall Uganda declared the rally was intended to "cry to God to help us with the challenges in our country..." The listed challenges included witchcraft, human sacrifice, and homosexuality. Onstage at the event, major Ugandan religious and political leaders called for speedy passage into law of the Anti Homosexuality Bill.

A few months before Engle held the May 2010 event, Louie Giglio's January 2-5, 2010 yearly "Passion" conference, at the Philips Arena & Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, featured Marilyn Skinner (wife of Watoto Christian Church head Gary Skinner), who joined Giglio for a conference breakout session on "Justice and Worship". Less than a year later, Ugandan David Kato, widely considered the father of Uganda's gay rights movement, was murdered, his skull smashed in with a hammer.

In 2012, the Watoto Church was one of four Ugandan churches selling tickets to Giglio's October 2012 "Passion" conference held at Kampala's Makerere University. Pastor Giglio has been staging his "Passion" events in Uganda since 2008 or earlier but does not seem to have been moved to make any public statements on Uganda's Anti Homosexuality Bill -- which, if it becomes law, would establish the death penalty for Ugandans who repeatedly engage in homosexual acts and require that citizens inform government authorities about persons suspected of being gay.

The January 2010 "Passion" conference also featured a screening of an historically revisionist eight minute video [6] that showcased the philanthropic efforts of the Skinners' Watoto Church, in taking care of Ugandans orphaned by the long conflict in Northern Uganda, home of Uganda's Acholi tribespeople.

The video whitewashed the history of the long conflict in the Acholi region, which created the orphans, by neglecting to mention the massive human rights violations in perpetrated by the Ugandan government during the conflict, and by blaming it solely on Joseph Kony's Lord's Reformation Army.

The internationally celebrated showpiece of Watoto Church philanthropy is the Watoto Children's Choir, which has been showcased at Giglio's Passion conferences and has performed before Queen Elizabeth of England and at the White House. The Watoto choir has been a staple act at evangelical church events internationally since 1994 - only two years before the Ugandan Army began forcibly driving up to a million people from the Acholi tribe of Northern Uganda into concentration camps, according to Dr. Adam Branch, author of Displacing Human Rights: War And Intervention In Northern Uganda (Oxford University Press, 2011):

"The UPDF [Ugandan People's Defense Forces] drove hundreds of thousands of Acholi peasants out of their villages and into camps through a campaign of intimidation, murder, torture, and bombing and burning entire villages... After the formation of the camps, the UPDF announced that anyone found outside of the camps would be considered a rebel and killed."

While the Watoto Church has not been among the noisiest of boosters of the Museveni regime among Uganda's born-again churches, that have provided a key block of political support for Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni over the past decade, nonetheless the church helps reinforce a predominant narrative, marketed aggressively to American evangelicals, that by omission exonerates the Museveni regime which, by many accounts, is among the most egregious violators of human rights on the African continent. [7]


[1] In late 2008 and early 2009, controversy arose following the announcement that Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren would give the invocation at Barack Obama's first presidential inauguration, because of Warren's alleged hostility to gay rights. In late 2009, as the Uganda Anti Homosexuality Bill earned international media notoriety, Warren reentered the spotlight because of his partnership with one of the most prominent Ugandan religious leaders agitating against LGBTI rights in Uganda, Martin Ssempa.

By early 2010, Warren caved to pressure from human rights groups and issued a statement denouncing the bill, in which Warren also denied he was "conspiring" with New Apostolic Reformation leader C. Peter Wagner, Warren's former teacher, to "rid the world of homosexuals". It was one of a number of seemingly bizarre statements from Warren, including his repeated exhortations to his followers to be as devoted to Jesus as the Hitler Youth were to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, that have tarnished Warren's "Purpose Driven" brand.

[2] Giglio's tone was reminiscent of Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee's petulant statement following 2008 Republican Presidential nominee John McCain's rejection of the political endorsement he had long sought, then obtained from Hagee, after my publication of audio from a sermon in which Hagee claimed that Hitler had been sent by God, to chase Europe's Jews to Palestine.

Like Hagee, Giglio sought to put the alleged misdeed in the distant past. But, like Hagee, whose "God sent Hitler" claim was from a sermon given in late 2005 (not the late 1990s, as I originally mis-dated the sermon), Giglio's association with antigay activism is not in 15 years in the past. It is current.  

[3] It has been rumored, in Ugandan media, that First Lady Janet Museveni is the real force behind Uganda's Anti Homosexuality Bill.

[4] In an interview with BBC journalist Sorious Samosa at the rally, Ugandan evangelist Bishop Julius Oyet, who claims to have helped conceive the Anti Homosexuality Bill and even served on a committee that picked David Bahati to enter the bill in parliament, and who has an official government commission to raise public support for the bill, told Somasa that Lou Engle is a "strong ally".

While Lou Engle is a prophet in the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders, a New Apostolic Reformation prophetic network, Julius Oyet has served with the International Coalition of Apostles, another of the apostolic networks founded and headed through the last decade by NAR mastermind C. Peter Wagner. Though Wagner and other top NAR apostles condemned the Anti Homosexuality Bill in late 2009, NAR apostles and prophets, such as Oyet and Engle (and other Ugandan NAR apsotles such as Alex Mitala) have nonetheless later been associated with antigay agitation in support of the bill.  

[5] My December 2009 story on Lou Engle's planned TheCall Uganda event was noticed by a few of the leading sources reporting on Uganda's deteriotiating LGBTI rights situation (see 1, 2, 3).

[6] The Watoto Christian Church video featured the core humanitarian "rescue narrative" as did the breakout viral video "Kony 2012" in early 2012; a conflict in Northern Uganda, presented as solely the fault of Joseph Kony and his LRA, leaves thousands of children orphaned. The Watoto Church selflessly steps into the breech, and begins providing for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those orphan children.

But many academics who have studied the conflict present a radically different account, in which Uganda's government was fully as culpable as Kony's LRA. In the mid-1990s, the Ugandan Army violently forced over a million of Northern Uganda's Acholi tribes people into rudimentary concentration camps that, initially, lacked clean water, food, and basic medical care.

While the camps were ostensibly for the Acholi's own protection, the Ugandan government failed to provision the camps or provide enough soldiers to effectively guard the camps from Kony's LRA. Some charge that the camps even enabled Kony's army to prey more effectively on the Acholi, by concentrating their otherwise dispersed population in the squalid, tightly packed camps. Anecdotal accounts have suggested that, in many instances, UPDF soldiers entrusted with guarding the concentration camps would instead run away when Kony's LRA forces approached.

According to the World Heath Organization, at the height of the conflict 1,000 Acholi per week in the over 2000 camps were dying to malnutrition, sickness from lack of clean water and basic sanitation, and even targeted rapes by HIV-infected UPDF soldiers stationed at the camps.

Former United Nations Undersecretary General Olara Otunnu has accused the Museveni regime of a planned genocide in order to depopulate the Acholi region in order to access the region's rich farmland and other resources. That claim is corroborated by a memo obtained by University of Notre Dame researcher David Todd Whitmore, allegedly written by President Yoweri Museveni in the mid-1980s, and by recent Ugandan government actions (see footnote 7)  

[7] While Uganda, along with neighboring Rwanda, played a key role in instigating the 1998-2005 war in the People's Democratic Republic of the Congo (dubbed "Africa's World War Two") that claimed an estimated five million lives, the Museveni regime's recent human rights offenses, according to a November 2012 United Nations Security Council letter, include support for the M23 rebel group operating in the People's Democratic Republic of the Congo, which group the UN charged with extrajudicial executions and wholesale massacres of civilians, and the use of child soldiers. Uganda has also been accused of siding with foreign investors engaged [see 1, 2] in wholesale land grabs from the Acholi of Northern Uganda, dispossessing tens of thousands of their farmlands.    

Regular Talk2action readers might also find it interesting that Giglio's Passion 2013 event at the Georgia Dome earlier this month included Jesus Culture, a ministry of Bill Johnson's Bethel Church in Redding, California.  Johnson is one of the six apostles (12 counting the spouses) over the Revival Alliance network, along with Heidi Baker, Randy Clark, Che Ahn, Georgian Banov, and John Arnott.  

Jesus Culture events regularly include Cindy Jacobs and Lou Engle and both are included in their latest CD/DVD.  Listen to excerpt: ngle#/m/message-mix/pick-me-jesus
and ngle#/m/message-mix/the-nazarite-call-lou-engle

Giglio has also had an ongoing relationship with Australia's Hillsong since at least 2008.  

by Rachel Tabachnick on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 05:56:32 PM EST

...but thanks for mentioning it. I noticed Hillsong as well - but there's just so much one can do in one piece. Giglio has cited Spiritual Mapping concepts, too, but did he understand what he was saying? Who knows.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 06:31:21 PM EST
It's an indication of how far the NAR ideology has penetrated into the evangelical world.  It's hard to know if any particular individual is aware of where spiritual mapping comes from or not.  On the other hand, one would think that Giglo knew what he was doing when he included Jesus Culture in Passion 2013.  They are at the heart of the youth sector of the NAR/apostolic and prophetic.

Others working with Giglio are also from apostolic and prophetic networks including Matt Redman, who was previously with Terry Virgo's New Frontier apostolic network in England.

by Rachel Tabachnick on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 06:45:05 PM EST

Back in 2007, at a church service in the Georgia Stone Mountain park I heard former SBC Vice President Bobby Welch talk of the growing threat of the charismatic movement. It was clear to me that Welch and his non-charismatic SBC faction was deeply troubled, even scared, but unsure of how to counter the charismatics.

In my opinion, Louie Giglio is in the vanguard of the Bapticostal movement. Smart money is betting on Bapticostalism, because this new hybrid pulls in the youth. And we know what the black hole at the center of this gravitational attractor is.  

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 10:21:34 AM EST

This article sheds light on an important issue that needs attention. It's commendable that the community took action to remove Pastor Giglio from the inauguration program due to his troubling ties to anti-LGBTI activism in Uganda.  clinical rheumatology It's crucial to consider the impact of associations when choosing representatives for such significant events.

by isabelladom on Fri Jul 28, 2023 at 05:20:44 PM EST

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