Arguably the most prominent evangelical leader in America, Rick Warren writes to the Ugandan Christian leaders asking them to reconsider their support for the controversial law to criminalise homosexuals in that country. Warren’s intervention is unprecedented and surprising and shows how far the mainstream evangelical have moved in a relatively short period of time.
At the same time Warren’s intervention puts Rowan Williams to shame. Williams has kept quiet to his shame over this odious proposed legislation while he was quick to jumped up within less than twelve hours after the election of Mary Glasspool as the bishop of Los Angeles Diocese of Episcopal Church in USA. Well done Rick, shame Rowan.
“Dear fellow pastors in Uganda,
I greet you in the name and love of Jesus Christ as I send this encyclical video to the pastors of the churches of Uganda with greetings from your fellow pastors around the world. May grace and peace be with you this Christmas season.
We are all familiar with Edmund Burke’s insight that, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” That is why I’m sharing my heart with you today. As an American pastor, it is not my role to interfere with the politics of other nations, but it IS my role to speak out on moral issues. It is my role to shepherd other pastors who look to me for guidance, and it is my role to correct lies, errors, and false reports when others associate my name with a law that I had nothing to do with, completely oppose, and vigorously condemn. I am referring to the pending law under consideration by the Ugandan Parliament, known as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
As a pastor, I’ve found the most effective way to build consensus for social change is usually through direct quiet diplomacy and behind the scenes dialogue, rather than through media. But because I didn’t rush to make a public statement, some erroneously concluded that I supported this terrible bill, and some even claimed I was a sponsor of the bill. You in Uganda know that is untrue.
I am releasing this video to you and your congregations to correct these untruths and to urge you to make a positive difference at this critical point in your nation.
While we can never deny or water down what God’s Word clearly teaches about sexuality, at the same time the church must stand to protect the dignity of all individuals — as Jesus did and commanded all of us to do.
Let me be clear that God’s Word states that all sex outside of marriage is not what God intends. Jesus reaffirmed what Moses wrote that marriage is intended to be between one man and one woman committed to each other for life. Jesus also taught us that the greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Since God created all, and Jesus suffered and died for all, then we are to treat all with respect. The Great Commandment has been the centerpiece of my life and ministry for over 35 years.
Of course, there are thousands of evil laws enacted around the world and I cannot speak to pastors about every one of them, but I am taking the extraordinary step of speaking to you — the pastors of Uganda and spiritual leaders of your nation — for five reasons:
First, the potential law is unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals, requiring the death penalty in some cases. If I am reading the proposed bill correctly, this law would also imprison anyone convicted of homosexual practice.
Second, the law would force pastors to report their pastoral conversations with homosexuals to authorities.
Third, it would have a chilling effect on your ministry to the hurting. As you know, in Africa, it is the churches that are bearing the primary burden of providing care for people infected with HIV/AIDS. If this bill passed, homosexuals who are HIV positive will be reluctant to seek or receive care, comfort and compassion from our churches out of fear of being reported. You and I know that the churches of Uganda are the truly caring communities where people receive hope and help, not condemnation.
Fourth, ALL life, no matter how humble or broken, whether unborn or dying, is precious to God. My wife Kay and I have devoted our lives and our ministry to saving the lives of people, including homosexuals, who are HIV positive. It would be inconsistent to save some lives and wish death on others. We’re not just pro-life. We are whole life.
Finally, the freedom to make moral choices, and our right to free expression are gifts endowed by God. Uganda is a democratic country with a remarkable and wise people, and in a democracy everyone has a right to speak up. For these reasons, I urge you, the pastors of Uganda, to speak out against the proposed law.
My role, and the role of the PEACE Plan, whether in Uganda or any other country, is always pastoral, not political. I vigorously oppose anything that hinders the goals of the PEACE Plan: Promoting reconciliation, Equipping ethical leaders, Assisting the poor, Caring for the sick, and Educating the next generation, which includes the protection of children.
Please know that you and the people of Uganda are in my constant prayers. This Christmas season I pray you will experience the three purposes of Christmas as announced by the angel at the birth of Christ. First, the angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy.” Christmas is a time of celebration — Jesus is the Good News for the whole world. God came to earth to be with us! Next, the angel said, “For unto us is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!” Christmas is a time for salvation. If we didn’t need a Savior, God would not have sent one. Finally, the angel said, “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” Christmas is a time for reconciliation. The message of Christmas is good cheer, good news, and good will for the whole world.
It is my prayer that the churches and people of Uganda will experience all three of these this season. May God bless you; and may God bless the nation of Uganda.