I greet you in the name and love of Jesus Christ as I send this encyclical video (http://www.youtube.com/saddlebackchurch) 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, "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 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.
Key Facts Concerning Recent Media and Blog Reports on Rick Warren's Position on Uganda
1. Do you support the death penalty for homosexuals?
Absolutely not. 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.
2. Do you support life imprisonment for homosexuality?
Of course not. I oppose the criminalization of homosexuality. The freedom to make moral choices is endowed by God. Since God gives us that freedom, we must protect it for all, even when we disagree with their choices.
3. Are you a friend of the President of Uganda?
No. I've never met him, and never had any kind of communications with him or with any member of the Ugandan Parliament.
4. Didn't the President of Uganda say he wanted his country to be Purpose Driven?
No, he didn't. That was said by the President of Rwanda, not Uganda, at a national rally in Rwanda in 2005. Years later, the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda made a similar comment so people are confusing Uganda with Rwanda, the country next to Uganda. While we have just begun to train pastors in Uganda, we are very involved in Rwanda, creating a nationwide PEACE Plan at the invitation of the churches there. Over 1,000 Saddleback members have served on humanitarian projects in Rwanda.
5. What did you do when you heard about the proposed Ugandan law?
I wrote to the most influential leader I knew in that country, the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, and shared my opposition and concern. He wrote me back, saying that he, too, was opposed to the death penalty for homosexuals. There are thousands of evil laws enacted around the world that kill people (For instance, last year, 146,000 Christians around the world were killed because of their faith.). In this case, I knew the Archbishop in Uganda, so I did what I could, but my influence in that nation has been greatly exaggerated by the media.
6. Is Uganda Pastor Martin Ssempa an associate who represents you?
Not at all. At each of our Global Summits on AIDS (on World AIDS Day) we've invited speakers from a wide spectrum of religions, beliefs, political views and health care expertise. We've had believers and atheists; liberals and conservatives; gays and straights. Ssempa was just one of over 200 speakers we've invited. At each Summit we make it clear that no speaker represents us, and that we don't control, endorse or agree with all that is said. Our desire is to encourage everyone to work together in ending HIV/AIDS and caring for those infected and affected. Ssempa was one of many speakers in 2005 and 2006. In 2007, when we learned that Ssempa's beliefs and actions were vastly different than ours, we disassociated ourselves from him.
7. Did you say that homosexuality is not a human right?
Absolutely not. What I said in an interview in Uganda was that there is no civil right to gay marriage guaranteed by the United States Constitution. All Americans, and I believe all people, are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights," as spoken by the United States Declaration of Independence.
8. Do you know Scott Lively?
No, I do not know Scott Lively and have had no contact with him regarding Uganda or any other issue. I would certainly not associate with anyone who denies the Holocaust, one of the greatest tragedies in human history.
9. Are you and Peter Wagner attempting to rid the world of homosexuals?
Absolutely not. Peter Wagner was a seminary professor of mine, but not my doctoral dissertation advisor. I have not had contact with Peter Wagner for many years and am certainly not conspiring with him for any purpose. Additionally, the event chronicled at Angels Stadium in 2005 has been grossly misrepresented. I was simply arguing that Christians could have a tremendous effect for good in the world if they had the same dedication as the followers of Mao. I would never argue that anyone should emulate or espouse the views of Mao, Hitler or Lenin.