Inauguration Prayers, Black History, and the Homosexual Agenda

Myrlie Evers-Williams, wife of slain civil rights icon, was set to share bookended inauguration prayers with Pastor Louie Giglio until Giglio decided to withdraw from the ceremony. Has a potentially historic African American event been usurped by the gay rights agenda?

Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, speaks to students during the National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Awards Public Forum at Temple Deliverance. (Photo: Mike Brown/Newscom)

Last week, I was excited to read the Washington Post article stating that Myrlie Evers-Williams, wife of slain civil rights icon Medgar Evers, was going to deliver the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration later this month. This was a historic announcement, since Evers would be the first female who wasn’t a clergy member to deliver what has been deemed “America’s most prominent prayer.” Add to that the fact that she’s a black woman and you can sense the pride I felt reading those words. In a month that marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, to deem this a special occasion wouldn’t do it justice. Not to mention that this is just the second time that the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday has fallen on Inauguration Day. Later this year we’ll also mark the 50th anniversary of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. In a matter of weeks, an African American man will be sworn in for a second term as the president of the United States. For me, there’s a sense of divine providence in the events leading up to this day. Ms. Evers will stand atop the same steps on which King stood to decry our nation’s treatment of African Americans in this country.

Today, I received some disheartening news. Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, was removed withdrew as a participant in Obama’s inauguration program. According to an inaugural planner, he withdrew over remarks about homosexuality he made in a sermon he preached in the mid-’90s. The sermon was titled “In Search of a Standard—A Christian Response to Homosexuality.” Man, it must have taken a Herculean Google effort to find that one. But that’s how the public vets people nowadays. Google searches produce “little nuggets” about people that others may use against them. President Obama didn’t have to Google Pastor Giglio, though: He had become aware of Giglio’s work combating human trafficking last year after students at the annual Passion Conference in Atlanta raised millions of dollars for the cause. This year the campaign raised over $3.3 million dollars.

In the interest of full disclosure, my wife and I attended Giglio’s church for over a year when we lived in Atlanta. We loved it. Giglio was genuine, Christ-centered in his preaching, and humble. Today, he’s been called everything from an unrepentant bigot to a pastor on the outlier of mainstream religious thinking (which might not actually be a bad thing). My dream of seeing a representative of the Civil Rights Movement share the platform with someone who genuinely cares and is doing something about modern-day slavery was crushed today. With more people enslaved today (approximately 27 million) than any other time in human history, this monumental occasion could have had a significant, visceral impact for African Americans. Most of these modern-day slaves are “people of color.”

Instead, we revisit an issue that cropped up in 2009 when Rick Warren was selected to give the benediction—a similar outcry that yielded different results. The difference? The President hadn’t expressed his evolving view on homosexuality at that time. But is this really a civil rights issue? I need not go into the matter of civil rights. I think Voddie Baucham does a pretty good job of addressing the issue here. Dr. Russell Moore suggests that what we may have is a de facto establishment of a state church.

As Moore points out:

The problem is not that [Giglio] wants to exclude homosexuals or others from the public square or of their civil rights. The problem is that he won’t say that they can go to heaven without repentance. That’s not a civil issue, but a religious test of orthodoxy.

The truth is that politicizing prayer is the first essential step to creating a state religion. We’re starting to enter the politically correct season of public prayer. So what’s the new standard? What’s the prerequisite when vetting someone to pray for our nation? Offending no one? We know from Scripture that’s impossible. Someone will always be offended. In fact, held to this standard, Jesus Himself would have been disqualified. Were that the benchmark, we’d have an empty podium on January 21st.

Giglio released this statement today:

I am honored to be invited by the President to give the benediction at the upcoming inaugural on January 21. 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.

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. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.

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. 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.

Our nation is deeply divided and hurting, and more than ever need God’s grace and mercy in our time of need.

My greatest desire is that we not be distracted from the things we are focused on…seeing people in our city come to know Jesus, and speaking up for the last and least of these throughout the world.

In my opinion, a grace-filled response to critics. In the coming weeks, the nation will be watching intently. Forget the replacement refs controversy last fall with the NFL—Giglio’s replacement will likely get tons of attention from the faith community, and the nation in general. Not because this person prays more eloquently than Giglio. Not because there’s a symbiotic relationship between this person’s prayer and Ms. Evers-Williams’ prayer. But because the selection will likely represent the evolving ethos of our pluralistic society. Disheartening? Yes. Unexpected? No. When it boils down to it, the words of Robert Godfrey ring true: neither the Republican Party or Democratic Party care about the cause of Christ. But I’m glad there are people like Pastor Giglio in this world who do.

About the author, John C. Richards Jr.

John C. Richards Jr. is the Associate Director of Adult Content Development at Urban Ministries, Inc. (UMI). He has served as a guest contributor for Huffington Post's Black Voices column and has written devotionals for Streaming Faith, the world's largest online faith-based broadcasting portal. Visit his website, and follow him on Twitter @brotherpreacher.
  1. You’re a hypocrite, like most “Christians”. I have no doubt that you would oppose a preacher who had said that black people suffer under the Curse of Ham, as your fellow “Christians” did. You wouldn’t be crying that this was a “religious litmus test”.

    • It is so tragic that you attack this man because stands with a man that declares truth. It seem that whenever someone black says something in opposition to the Presidents ideals they are labled something derogotory. The President isn’t infallable, he is a man with ideals that don’t line up with the scriptures. But, that doesn’t mean that I tear him down for it. Well neither should we do to those who hold a different view on things. First we should render honor to God through our treatment of our fellows. If we disagree, then let us have a discussion civily, to let our thoughts be known. But calling this man a hypocrite is wrong. What is he saying that is hypocritical? Is it because you don’t agree with what he has said? That doesn’t mean that he is a hypocrite, it means that he has an opinion on how the homosexual agenda is dictating the Presidents office in regards to who is acceptable and who isn’t. If Mrs. Evers had a record of speaking against homosexuallity then she wouldn’t be chosen either. I know, I’ll be labled too. But I don’t care. All that I care about is right in the sight of God, beacause He is the only righteous judge.

  2. Maybe not. This hypocrite actually cites Russel Moore, who is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. The same denomination that supported slavery and segregation. Now we are supposed to think that they are respectable.

    • You mean the same SBC that just elected its first African-American President (like Obama’s election, something many thought would never happen)? While it’s true the denomination has a checkered past, you can look at almost every denomination in the late 19th Century and say the same thing. The SBC has acknowledged this and is taking steps toward addressing those indiscretions. Regardless, doesn’t take away from the truth in Moore’s statement.

      Re: curse of Ham comment. I reiterate this post isn’t primarily about comparing Civil Rights movement and and gay rights. I linked a post that addresses that. It’s a reflection on a historic moment that may have been missed re: slavery. Thanks for your comment. Bless you.

  3. It’s not true that almost every denomination believed that slavery was right, and that blacks were inferior. Just to name a few: Catholics, Episcopalians, Quakers, Congregationalists, Northern Baptists. In fact, while the SBC was proclaiming that slavery is divinely ordained, and that blacks were cursed by God – other religious groups were agitating against slavery. The SBC is fairly unique, and now that racism is politically incorrect, it’s trying to whitewash its history – so it can target the same old bigotry against other groups: women, gays, atheists.

    Let me remind you that you said that no litmus test of doctrine may be demanded. Now you’re amending your statement. Now it’s “no religious litmus test may be demanded, except one that relates to the black civil rights movement”. So there is a “a religious test of orthodoxy” after all. You should have come clean about that earlier.

    • I said that nearly all denominations have a “checkered past”. Whether it be race, ordination of women, or thoughts on war. And even some within the denominations you mention wrestled with how to address the issue of slavery within their cultural context. And honestly, the fact that many blacks today are part of the methodist and baptist tradition (albeit a distinctively Af Am approach to each) demonstrates the redemptive nature of the Gospel.

      Not sure why you used quotations for something you can’t directly attribute to me. I don’t believe I said that no litmus test may be demanded except one that relates to the black civil rights movement. If that were the case, I would have applauded Giglio (who isn’t an African American) for stepping down and asked the Obama administration to select someone else who reflected the black civil rights movement. I merely reflected on what the experience would have meant for me as an African American. As an African American I hope I could have those personal reflections without criticism. The only religious test of orthodoxy here stems from the way prayer has been politicized to remove someone who, if you asked others, is anything but a bigot.

  4. As a young black Christian, I take discrimination against my bisexual and gay brethren seriously, and anyone who does not support their civil rights, including equal marriage rights, is not appropriate for the event. President Obama and his party won on a platform that explicitly and exuberantly advocates full marriage equality and civil rights for gay and bisexual Americans. Young Americans, the well-educated, urbanites, and progressives who make up the base of the Democratic Party view this as the issue of our day, and Obama would be unwise to exalt people who do not embrace those views. There are many pastors and Christians out there who support equal marriage rights, and I expect President Obama to select one of them to do the honors.

  5. I am Lutheran and attend a church that blesses same-sex marriages. My Bishop was instrumental in getting same-sex marriage in my state. I and many others (including progressive Christians) might find anti-gay religious beliefs ignorant and bigoted, but I don’t really care if they keep it to themselves and don’t try to force their personal beliefs on others. Progressives and same-sex oriented people have never tried to prevent religious conservatives from marrying, take their children away from them, or have them imprisoned. I haven’t blamed them for hurricanes, tornadoes, or childhood obesity even though there’s a correlation there that’s pretty hard to overlook (or see around). If were a matter of them living THEIR lives according to their beliefs and allowing others to live their lives according to their different beliefs, there wouldn’t be a problem. However, they want to impose their very narrow religious beliefs on others, codify them into civil LAW (as reflected by the mission of the religious right). That is what makes them bigoted.

    • It doesn’t matter what any “Christian” or anybody else says or thinks about homosexuality. It only matters what God thinks. The only way we have to determine that is to read His Word. It either says what it does or it doesn’t. You either believe it or you don’t. It’s not ambivalent. Regarding bigotry, my dictionary the Webster Illustrated Contemporary Dictionary, Enclyclopedic Edition defines Bigot as: One intolerent of or prejudiced against those of differing religous beliefs, political opinions, etc. I would think Christophobes would fall into that category as would those “Christians” who define their brothers and sisters as bigots because they don’t agree on this specific issue, including those who believe they have, in America, the right to advocate for their beliefs and opinions as do you.

  6. It is amazing to me to see Christians comment on this issue and not address what God has said concerning homosexuality. It seems to me that there are these Christians who are more concerned about their positions in our society than with pleasing our Savior. The Scriptures have spoken concerning this issue. Either Jesus is Lord or He is not! Which one is it?!!!

    Concerning Pastor Giglio, I’m glad he did not compromise his stance, nor his church, nor God’s word in order to remain a part of the inauguration. President Obama or Jesus, His Lord? Easy choice!!!

  7. It is amazing to me that so many fundamentalist Christians fail to respect their neighbors and realize that there is a constitutional separation between church and state. Your religious beliefs should not decide other peoples’ secular rights. No wonder young people are avoiding conservative Christianity in droves, according to Barna and other Christina researchers. Homophobia and bigotry are major turnoffs with young people. Do not use your religion as a justification to oppress and discriminate against other people. Furthermore, your fundamentalist version of Christianity is not the only version of Christianity, as there are millions of Christians that support same-sex marriage rights and reject fundamentalism obsession with controlling other peoples’ lives. Have some respect for other peoples’ right to pursue happiness in accordance with their own beliefs.

    • Since when did expressing our point of view and using our right to vote become a problem? You can call it homophobia, bigotry, or whatever else, but I’ll be all that in your eyes as long as I’m standing on truth. As for other versions of Christianity, there is only one Lord and His word has spoken on this issue. If there are millions of other Christians who support what the Scriptures have spoken against then they are WRONG! I would remind all Christians that it’s better to stand with the Lord even if you have to stand alone. It doesn’t matter if the whole world supports same-sex marriage and the homosexual lifestyle, if God truly is against it then His viewpoint is the only One that matters!

    • I would like to add that most people are treating this issue as a matter purely of someone’s rights vs. other’s rights. It’s much more than this. Souls are at stake here. I would remind folks that Scripture records whole nations (Sodom and Gomorrah) being judged and destroyed because of their rejection of truth of which homosexuality was a part of their sin!

      • Scripture also records that Joshua made the Sun stand still, which is only possible if the Sun revolves around the Earth. Do you believe that too, Edward?

        • “which is only possible” leaves out the possibility of a supernatural God doesn’t it? It that a fact or an assumption?

        • I believe that God gave Joshua the daylight he needed to accomplish his task. It was put in the language best understood at the time. Even today we still talk in terms of the sun “rising” and “falling”, but does the sun literally rise or fall? If God is able to do what He pleases, then as Lord of creation, He can cause time to stand still because He is Lord of time as well. Just because you limit what God can do doesn’t mean He is limited by your unbelief.

  8. As a Christian (who just happens to be black), I am deeply grieved about this situation on so many levels.

    First, this political decision (to exclude and castigate pastors who believe in and stand for biblical truth regarding homosexuality is a portend of disastrous and devastating things to come for our once-great nation. Don’t believe me. Read Romans Chapter 1. God has spoken, clearly, on this matter and He does not stutter!

    That means, secondly, that America is in dire straights with Him, over this abomination-which is what He calls it-regardless of what anyone thinks or opines about the matter.

    Thirdly, the call of God is for repentance on the part of those who blatantly promote and make excuses for sin of any kind.

    Fourth, those who support homosexuality, unfortunately, completely disregard what He has said about it in His Word. And He is the Judge! And since I believe what He has declared will happen to those who embrace it, support it and promote it, we (like other civilizations have before) will suffer the consequences of His wrath. It’s already begun.

    Our economy is on the verge of total collapse. We have more enemies (outside and inside our borders) that await the opportunity to destroy us than space will permit me to mention. Racial and class division and warfare imperils domestic tranquility. And because of our sin, as a nation, God will not protect us! Look at what He did to Judah and Israel repeatedly, because of their sin! And they were His own covenant people!!

    True, Bible-believing Christians (the remnant) will not be swayed by the winds of political correctness, personal opinion and a culture that is morally bankrupt. Rather, we will stand by the truths of Scripture, love all sinners, call them to repentance and seek to lead them to the only Savior of sinners.

    Warning! A holy God will not sanction, dismiss, overlook or forgive those who refuse to repent of their unrighteous behavior regardless of what the government, its leaders, its citizens or anyone else may say. He never has, and He never will. Anyone who is biblically-literate knows and understands this truth. Wake up, America! Time is short!

  9. It is becoming evident that evangelism is becoming marginalized more and more because of its own vice of engendering schadenfreude in followers by diminishing and putting down gay people.

    • Speaking for myself, I would have written the Word differently so that we wouldn’t have this issue, but it’s not the Word of 5thcommjarhead, it’s the Word of God. And I don’t enjoy putting down anybody, even Christophobes.

  10. There are so many great pro-gay and gay-friendly pastors to choose from, including the distinguished Rev. Otis Moss III of of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ; Jay Bakker of Revolution Church; Bishop Gene Robinson; Rev. Dennis Meredith of Tabernacle Baptist Church; Rev. Kenneth L. Samuel of Atlanta’s Victory Christian Church; the NAACP’s NC President Rev. William Barber; Rev. Donte Hickman Sr of Baltimore’s Southern Baptist Church; Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church; Rev. Freddie D. Haynes of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas; Rev. Amos C. Brown, pastor of Third Baptist Church of San Francisco; and Pastor Jim Swilley of Georgia’s Church of the Now. There are countless other pastors and clergy that are gay-friendly and inclusive and making a positive, vocal impact inside and outside the church on this issue. Obama joined the United Church of Christ, an aggressively pro-gay denomination that blesses same-sex marriages and does great work for this human rights issue. It is befitting that inaugural clergy represent Obama’s progressive theological views on this issue, not the views of rightwing religionists who still harbor primitive prejudices.

    • Impressive list, indeed! But only by the standards of a fallen and a morally bankrupt society. Your post compels me to explain.

      The New Testament clearly teaches that in the last days, many in the church (pulpit and pew) will ‘fall away from the faith’ (clear teachings of Scripture). Apparently, you either have never read (or simply do not believe) 1 Tim. 4: 1-16; 2 Tim. 3: 1-9; 4: 1-5.

      The Master (in Matt. 7: 15-23) is crystal clear concerning those who purport or claim to be His followers. Apparently, you have either never read or, simply, chosen not to believe what the Master, Himself, has said concerning those who will, and will not, enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

      Just in case you are interested, His own testimony (concerning who will, and who won’t, enter into heaven) is found in Matt. 7: 15-23. Pay particularly close attention to what The JUDGE of the universe has to say in verses 21-23. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but ONLY HE WHO DOES THE WILL OF MY FATHER who is in heaven. MANY will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy (preach) in your Name, and in your Name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, ‘ I never knew you. Away (depart from) Me, you evildoers!’

      Sir, I sure hope you got that! Looks, to me, like the Judge’s qualifications and criteria for entrance into HIS heaven appears to differ quite significantly from yours. So, somebody is right and somebody is wrong. I’d hazard a guess, sir, that you are the one who is wrong! I choose to believe Him, and not you.

      Jesus Christ (who is the only way to heaven-John 14: 6) says, “…he who does the will of my Father’ is His criteria for entrance into heaven!

      So the critical question is, ‘What is the ‘will’ of the Father?” The answer is simple. His Word reveals His will. That means, only those who are faithful to what He declares in His Word will enter into His heaven. Not yours, not mine, but His heaven!

      Now, you can choose any pastor or preacher of your particular religious preference or personal persuasion. That’s your choice. But, I’d seriously advise that you choose clerics more wisely (if I read my Bible correctly. And I think I do).

      If I were you (and I were seeking to go to heaven, and not hell), I’d be a bit more diligent and discriminating about who I chose to listen to regarding spiritual/biblical/religious matters in life. I’d prioritize seeking out a pastor and a church where fidelity to the clear teaching and adherence to Scripture is of paramount importance-not whether or not they are ‘inclusive and making a positive, vocal impact inside and outside the church’ on the issue of homosexuality!

      From my reading of the record (Scripture), we (pastors, preachers, etc.) will all be judged not by how prominent or popular we are; not by how ‘well we can tell the story'; by how long we’ve been preaching; how many theological degrees we possess; how many members are on our church rolls, etc.

      The true litmus test for entrance into heaven lies, rather, in how closely we follow Christ (in public and private); adherence to His Word (which is His will) and lead others in doing the same. Otherwise, according to the Master, we (like most who claim to know Him-but in name only) are in for a very rude, unpleasant surprise when we breathe our last breath-assuming we will be one place and end up in another!

      There’s an old, Negro spiritual that says, ‘Everybody talkin bout heaven ain’t goin there!” Incidentally, my ancestors gleaned that eternal, theological truth from Matt. 7:13-14.

      So, sir, be very careful. Your societal, cultural and religious preoccupation with being ‘inclusive,’ pro-this or pro-that does not conform nor comport with the truth of Scripture. As a matter of fact, your views (and those of the clerics you mentioned) are diametrically opposed to the clear teaching of these texts (and countless others) and will lead you where you, really, don’t want to go!

      You’d be wise to ‘narrow’ your beliefs down to what God’s Word has to say on the subject of human sexuality, instead of choosing the ‘broad’ ‘inclusive’ and popular road of a morally-bankrupt social order that leads directly to hell! Because that is exactly where this fallen, corrupt society is leading us, if we do not repent! Romans, Chapter 1

      • Thank you Pastor C. There really is remnant who trust and obey God.

        I find the confusion in the church baffling! It’s sad that many people who call themselves “christians” have NO idea what “christian” means. If you don’t agree or fall in line with the word of God, (Lord and Master), then you’re NOT a Christian. How can you be a christian and not believe or follow the bible? It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not a cute title, or an occupation on Sunday. It’s a lifestyle by faith and obedience in Christ Jesus alone. And 1 Corinthians 6:9 clearly states that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is the Lord of christianity and the church, not Obama, the democrats, or some empty worldly philosophy on what is “good”. I suggest that some people actually open their bibles, and get to know Him.

  11. The only time the religious right seems to care about diversity is when it has been blocked from demonizing one group ot other. Women can’t lead in most conservative churches. Hispanics are under suspicion of being illegals. Black people? They’re using the race card whenever someone points out discrimination. Gays get …more
    The only time the religious right seems to care about diversity is when it has been blocked from demonizing one group or other. Prejudice is not Christian.

  12. John Richards, I can’t think of anything that can be considered even remotely in the same league was supporting the enslavement of human beings. I appreciate your support for ordaining women, but it’s really shameful that you would even dare to compare enslaving human beings, and treating them as less than human through segregation, racism and lynching to not ordaining women.

    So you have failed to show that Catholics, Episcopalians, Quakers have sinned in any way that is even remotely comparable to your beloved Slaveholding Baptist Convention. I realize that you’re trying to whitewash their disgusting history, to be less ashamed of yourself when you support its crusade against equality for gay people, but really, wake up.

    It took the Segregationist Baptist Convention 145 years to apologize for slavery. 145 years. Considering that it has existed for only 162 years, it has been in unrepentant support for slavery, segregation and white supremacy for 89.5% of its existence. It was founded not on noble ideas, but on the idea that one man has the right to enslave another, because the other man belongs to a different race. And that’s an organization that you demand I support? Over my dead body.

    Sorry, John, but I will never support an organization with such a history. You call it a checkered history, I call it disgusting, repulsive, abhorrent, evil. I will never support an organization that says that women should “submit” to their husbands. Not the Muslim Brotherhood, nor the Supremacist Baptist Convention. And I will never support an organization that opposes equality for gays and lesbians.

    Sue me.

  13. LONDON, Jan. 16 (UPI) — One of England’s most prominent evangelical ministers says Christians need to recognize monogamous same-sex relationships.

    The Rev. Steve Chalke, a Baptist, senior minister of Oasis Church in London and founder of a network of charities, gave his views in an article, “The Last Taboo,” published this week in Christianity, The Daily Telegraph reported. Chalke compared the views of many Christians on homosexuality to those who 200 years ago used the Bible to justify slavery.

    Chalke said the overall message of the Bible is one of “radical inclusion.”

    “Some will think that I have strayed from scripture — that I am no longer an evangelical,” he wrote. “I have formed my view, however, not out of any disregard for the Bible’s authority, but by way of grappling with it and, through prayerful reflection, seeking to take it seriously.”

    Prime Minister David Cameron is pushing for legalization of gay marriages.

    Read more:

  14. Why are homosexuals so often portrayed as having an agenda? Is there a coresponding heterosexual agenda? I only see a human agenda: to be able to live and love as God has created us to do. Our Creator has made us in such a way that it is not good to be alone. Who has the right to say otherwise?