An evangelical pastor from Atlanta announced Thursday that he would not give the benediction at President Obama's swearing-in ceremony after a sermon he gave on homosexuality in the mid-1990s resurfaced earlier this week.
In that sermon, the Rev. Louie Giglio called for Christians to "firmly respond to the aggressive agenda" of some in the gay community and warns that widespread gay marriage "would run the risk of absolutely undermining the whole order of our society."
In a statement, Giglio said that his participation "will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration."
Giglio pastors the Passion City Church in Atlanta, where many of his sermons present a traditional view of gender roles and marriage. On Faith has more on Giglio and the sermon, including excerpts of the most inflammatory passages.
The pastor was selected for the benediction because of the work he has done to raise awareness of human trafficking, the Presidential Inaugural Committee said. His church recently raised $3.3 million to combat human trafficking worldwide. A PIC spokeswoman told reporters that members were not aware of Giglio's past statements on homosexuality when they selected him.
In his statement Giglio says that the issue is not one of his priorities:
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...
The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced earlier this week that Giglio was selected, along with Myrlie Evers-Williams, to pray at the inauguration.
"As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans," the PIC said.