The Final Sunday at Mars Hill Church: Rick Warren, Broken Trees and Unfinished Business (Video) (Audio)

Not long ago, Rick Warren finished preaching the last sermon to the remaining locations of Mars Hill Church. I may have more about the sermon later, but for now I want to pick out one phrase:

Even in God’s garden of grace, broken trees bear fruit.

According to someone who heard the message, Warren said this while showing a picture of a fallen tree with eight new trees growing out it.
For many, Mars Hill Church was not a broken tree. They made their nest in that tree and are mourning today as it will no longer function as it once did. For others the tree was diseased and broken, a source of pain. While some of them may celebrate, I suspect that most of those who had anything to do with the church will also feel some sadness and grief. In all my interviews, I have met only a handful who wanted to see the church close. Most wanted to see change and stories of redemption and correction.
Actually, the church doesn’t cease as an entity on December 31. There are buildings to sell and resources to distribute. There might be mediation or a lawsuit to settle. There will be donation statements to mail out. Speaking of money, there will be offerings to count and process. My source said that one of the pastors stood up and asked for money after Rick Warren’s sermon. Fitting.
But videos will go away and churches will become local. Over time we will find out how many of those trees growing from the fallen one will live.


Below is about two minutes near the beginning of the sermon. There may be more of the message later.

At the end, just before communion and singing the last three songs, Alex Ghioni leads the request for offerings.

Here is audio of the entire sermon (no video except the title):

Some readers have pointed out via email that the “broken tree” image might not square well with Jesus’ images of the fruit produced by good and bad trees in Matthew 7:17:

Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

In fairness, I know the concept he was going for but the image doesn’t work well for those who believe Mars Hill was, on balance, not a good tree.
Mars Hill posted the video on their You Tube channel:
[youtube]http://youtu.be/HAcegtdWCRA[/youtube]

Rick Warren to Preach Final Sermon at Mars Hill Church

Knock me over with a feather.

This Sunday, December 28th, will be our final Sunday as Mars Hill Church. We hope you will join us as each of our churches will be holding worship services.
As we reflect on over eighteen years of ministry, and ultimately close the doors on Mars Hill Church, we are thankful that many of our churches will continue as new independent, autonomous churches. While Mars Hill Church will cease to exist, God’s work through his people will continue.
Our dear friend Pastor Rick Warren from Saddleback Church has graciously offered to preach the final sermon for us. Each of our churches will be showing a special message from Pastor Rick, based on John 12:24.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24
Our hope is that this timely message will be an encouragement for the people that have called Mars Hill Church their home, as we reflect on the great impact our church has had on the kingdom of God, as well as an ecouragement (sic) for the new churches emerging out of Mars Hill, and the potential they have to continue bearing much fruit.
Please join us this Sunday. We hope to see you there.

That’s one way to close down a church.
 

Rick and Kay Warren condemn the denial of link between HIV and AIDS as promoted by the AFA’s Bryan Fischer

Early in January, Bryan Fischer, issues analyst with the American Family Association, threw his support behind the belief that HIV does not cause AIDS. On his daily talk show, Fischer hosted University of California, Berkeley professor, Peter Duesberg, who is the principle proponent of the theory that HIV is a harmless virus and that AIDS is the result of lifestyle choices, such as drug use and promiscuity, which weaken the immune system. Duesberg says that gay men are at special risk since they use drugs and engage in casual sex more so than other groups.

In a column on the AFA website, Fischer wrote:

So what is the cause of what we know as AIDS? What is the cause of this condition that is killing people? Duesberg’s answer can be found in one word: drugs.

And specifically, drug use connected with the kind of sex that is far too common in the homosexual community. While the average heterosexual has somewhere between seven to 14 sexual partners in a lifetime, it is not uncommon for homosexuals to have hundreds, even thousands, of sexual partners.

By partnering with Duesberg, Fischer brought AIDS denialism closer to the mainstream of evangelicalism. In response, Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay issued a statement to me about Fischer’s and Duesberg’s denial of the HIV-AIDS link. The Warrens’ statement is powerful and decisive. It is reproduced here in full:

Since AIDS was first discovered in 1981, 30 years of non-stop scientific research by the US military, the medical community, our government, and by every international health organization has proven over and over, with countless irrefutable results, that ONLY people with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) develop AIDS.  To imply the disease is caused by anything besides HIV is quack science, like claiming the earth is flat, or the moon is made of cheese. Since 1985, when the virus that creates AIDS was isolated, every doctor on the planet, except Peter Duesberg, has known that HIV is the only cause of AIDS.

Duesberg’s denial of the entire body of research, and his rejection of thousands of scientific trials and papers, would be laughable if millions of lives weren’t at stake.  But his view is deadly.  Unfortunately, Duesberg convinced some people in Africa that HIV was not the cause of AIDS and as a result many people there needlessly became infected with the virus, and some have subsequently suffered and died.

It is frustrating – and frightening – for those of us in AIDS ministry to see someone like Dr. Duesberg play to people’s bias and prejudices.  For the past eight years we have worked with thousands of churches around the world and in America who have ministries to those infected and affected by AIDS.  No one deserves this illness, and we must not ignore those among us who are infected or affected by HIV and AIDS.  There are numerous ways to acquire the virus – sexual activity, blood transfusions, being born to an HIV positive mother, dirty needles –  but what matters isn’t  how a person became infected as much as how we will respond. People with living with the virus are people that Jesus created, loves, and died for. Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan teaches us that when you find someone bleeding on the side of the road, you don’t say “Was it your fault?” You just help them in love!

Let’s be very careful about what reality we deny; lives are at stake.

When the Warrens write that Duesberg convinced some in Africa that HIV and AIDS were not related, they are referring to the period of AIDS denial in South Africa from 2000 to 2005. In 2000, Duesberg was invited by South African President Thabo Mbeki to provide advice on AIDS policy. Subsequently, the South African government displayed antagonism toward AIDS treatment and prevention programs which involved anti-retro viral drugs (ARVs). Nicolo Nattrass, writing in African Affairs, said that President Mbeki questioned the science behind the epidemic. However, the consequences were devastating. According to a Harvard University press release and a study from the journal African Affairs, over 330,000 deaths could have been prevented if ARVs had been used. The Harvard release, citing a 2008 study, added that 35,000 babies were born with HIV due to failure to implement appropriate drug based prevention programs.

If anything, the African epidemic provides evidence counter to Duesberg’s theory. The epidemic there is driven by heterosexual activity. The stereotype about gay men spreading HIV via lots of drugs and sex is not applicable there.

Given what is at stake, the Warrens’ statement is important. The American Family Association has a sizable audience which includes GOP Presidential candidates. Confusion over something as basic as what causes AIDS could become a barrier to the progress made in ministry and treatment for those with HIV/AIDS. As the Warrens remind us, lives are at stake.

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill: What are American Christians doing?

This post will be a work in progress in that I am going to list organizations with connections to those in Uganda who are suporting the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. As I learn of various statements and positions of American Christian groups, I will post them, even if there are no particular ties to promoters of the bill. I need to caution readers that being listed here does not mean that the organization or anyone in it supports the bill. Reactions have varied and those reactions are what I am trying to capture. As organizations change there positions or views, I will change this page to reflect new information.

I will begin with the three Americans who spoke at the Kampala conference “Understanding the Gay Agenda” in March. I posted on this here early and was quoted in the Ugandan press as a critic of the conference as it was about to begin.

Scott Lively (Defend the Family International) – As of January 10, Scott Lively endorsed a revised Anti-Homosexuality Bill which removes the death penalty and encourages counseling. The problem is that I cannot confirm that such a revision exists. In an email exchange, Lively would not disclose whether or not he has seen a revision.

Caleb Brundidge (International Healing Foundation) – Initially, there was silence from Brundidge and the International Healing Foundation about the ex-gay conference and the bill. Cohen’s book Coming Out Straight was referred to positively during the Kampala conference and at a follow up conference. In the IHF’s Summer, 2009 newsletter,  Brundidge wrote an article detailing the trip. When the national and international media began to report this story, Brundidge’s former therapist and mentor at IHF, Richard Cohen, stepped forward to comment, on the Rachel Maddow Show and via an open letter to the Ugandan parliament. In the letter, he expresses strong opposition to the bill but then asks them to emphasize therapy.

Don Schmierer (Exodus International) – In contrast to the above two organizations, Exodus International did not send Don Schmierer to Uganda. The organization was warned that the conference was to take place and advised to contact Mr. Schmierer and ask him to reconsider taking part. They did not do so and seemed slow to grasp the significance of the event. Initially, Exodus supported Mr. Schmierer’s attendance there even as they condemned criminalization of homosexuality in March, 2009.  Later, after the bill was introduced, Exodus International expressed strong opposition to it saying so in a letter signed by Alan Chambers, Randy Thomas, Christopher Yuan and me (I am not affiliated with Exodus but signed as an expression of support for the move Exodus made to engage).  Later, Don Schmierer added his signature.

Mr. Schmierer has recently told several news sources that he felt duped into participating and was misled about the intent of the conference by organizer Stephen Langa.

“It wasn’t what we agreed on for advertising,” Schmierer said. “He had me write out 45-minute speech on healthy parenting. I found out a week before I got there he made it a three-day event and added more people. One guy was speaking on fighting the gay agenda. The way we were all listed on the program, I can see why people lump us together.”

Schmierer said he didn’t want to back out of the conference because he wanted to be gracious to the host, and said he didn’t have any indications at the time that his talk about parenting would become a lightning rod for criticism.

Since no actual revision has materialized, it is not clear how Mr. Brundidge or Mr. Schmierer would feel about a bill which removed the death penalty and added counseling.

The following people and organizations have various connections to the principle people in Uganda who support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I also note whether they have commented on the bill.

Rick Warren – Initially many critics looked to the Saddleback pastor as being involved with the bill because of his prior connection to Ugandan Martin Ssempa, who spoke at an early AIDS conference hosted by Saddleback Church. On October 30, Rick and Kay Warren released a statement to me revealing that they had severed ties with Martin Ssempa in 2007 because “his views and actions were in serious conflict with our own.”  Martin Ssempa is relevant because he has been a vocal champion of the bill from the time of the first reading and is now chair of the Uganda National Pastors Task Force Against Homosexuality. The mission of the task force is to promote the passage of the bill.

Rev. Warren followed his statement regarding Ssempa with this video and print message to Ugandan pastors. The video made clear his personal opposition, enhanced the visibility of the story and laid out a clear rationale for broad Christian opposition to the bill. Then, the Uganda pastors task force issued a print and video rebuttal to Rev. Warren using Martin Ssempa as spokesman.

The Fellowship Foundation – The Fellowship Foundation (aka The Family) sponsors the upcoming National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC. They also recruit people to conduct similar events in countries around the world. In Uganda, the prayer breakfast is organized by Nsaba Buturo with assistance from parliamentarians, including Anti-Homosexuality Bill author David Bahati. These connections, disclosed by author Jeff Sharlet on National Public Radio led to questions about the role of the Fellowship.   Later, Mr. Sharlet provided a guest post confirming and expanding on my reporting that the Fellowship opposes the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Fellowship member, Bob Hunter, has spoken candidly to Sharlet that the Fellowship has opposed the bill from the time they first became aware of it.

America’s Survival – This group, headed by Cliff Kincaid, published Scott Lively’s endorsement of the bill on their front page. Mr. Kincaid has also published articles defending Mr. Lively’s speeches in Uganda and in one called the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, “pro-family legislation.”

The organization is also requesting that constituents contact Ugandan officials with the following message:

Contact the Embassy of Uganda in the U.S. and express your support for their efforts to keep homosexual influences out of their country.

Family Watch International – This Gilbert, AZ organization promotes adoption and abstinence programming. Martin Ssempa is listed as being a volunteer team member:

Martin Ssempa, FWI African Coordinator (volunteer) – Internationally renowned family activist.  Helped Ugandan government develop its national policy on abstinence in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  Has spoken extensively on the subjects of AIDS, marriage, pornography and drug addiction.  Testified before the U.S. Congress, explaining how the U.S. aid programs that rely on condom promotion and distribution have exacerbated the AIDS problem in Africa.  He is helping Family Watch coordinate pro-family efforts in Africa.

College of Prayer – Led by Atlanta’s Fred Hartley, the College of Prayer has an ongoing relationship with David Bahati, Benson Obua-Ogwal (co-sponsors of the bill) and Nsaba Buturo (Minster of Ethics and Integrity who has strongly supported the bill). The CoP mentors and supports the Parliament leaders who take advantage of these meetings. Regarding the bill, Rev. Hartley told me he saw an early draft of the bill in the Summer of 2009 which did not contain the death penalty. In fact, he doubted that critics had the actual bill since Hon. Bahati told him that electronic copies were unauthorized.

Another bill supporter and CoP connection, Apostle Julius Oyet was scheduled to speak in Atlanta for a CoP event in early February. Oyet, presiding Apostle of the Born Again Federation,  was in parliament’s chamber when the bill was introduced and afterward prayed to thank God for the bill the introduction of which he believed would keep God from destroying Uganda. Apostle Oyet was scheduled to speak at a College of Prayer event in Atlanta during February 4-6. I recently learned from the CoP that the speaking engagement had been cancelled. No reason was given.  The CoP has issued no public statement regarding the bill, however, director Hartley told me that he opposes the bill and opposes criminalization of homosexuality. He also indicated that CoP activities in Uganda are on hold. It seems clear to me, despite the lack of public disapproval, that the CoP does not support the bill and had no part in creating it.

WAIT Training – After meeting Martin Ssempa at the Saddleback AIDS conference in 2005, Joneen Mackenzie, founder and director of WAIT Training decided to assist Ssempa spread his abstinence message in the US. She helped him construct a website and agreed to distribute a DVD of his speeches and book speaking engagements. 

Initially, when contacted about their stance on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Mackenzie provided a statement which neither endorsed or opposed Ssempa’s efforts (scroll down to comments). However, Mackenzie recently alerted me that WAIT Training had severed ties with Ssempa over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. As an aspect of this move, she place a statement on her website and asked Ssempa to remove references to WAIT Training from his website (which he has done). 

Disciple Nations Alliance – The African representative of mission organization DNA is Stephen Langa. Langa organized the ex-gay conference in March which was designed to kick off efforts to enact stonger laws against homosexuality. DNA issued a statement here maintaining confidence in Mr. Langa while expressing significant concerns about the bill.

Teen Mania – Recently, Teen Mania issued a statement about the Anti-Homosexuality bill. Initially, TM had informed people that the bill covered only child abuse and rape, however, on their Facebook page, the group issued a statement expressing concerns about the bill and promising to evaluate African ministry partners in light of those concerns. Specifically, the prominent ministry partner is Martin Ssempa as Teen Mania is contemplating setting up a leadership training organization in Uganda.

World Outreach Ministries – This organization is an organization which processes funds for the Ssempas. They are not a “sending board” which would mean an organization who trained and mentored them on their way to the mission field, but rather a service agency. The Ssempas are supported by Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas and until recently New Hyde Park Baptist Church on Long Island. Director Jason Peebles told me that he and his staff are evaluating the situation but felt that Teen Mania’s statement was a good expression of their position.

Canyon Ridge Christian Church – Canyon Ridge supports the Ssempa’s financially and via mission trips to assist his Makerere Community Church. Regarding the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, executive pastor Mitch Harrison provided this statement:

Canyon Ridge Christian Church partners with missionaries and ministry leaders around the world, including Martin Ssempa, for the purpose of reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ and providing humanitarian aid where possible.

 

With the oversight of our elders and missions team, we constantly evaluate our ministry partners and their activities. We will only support those who engage in and promote activities consistent with the redemptive and grace-filled purposes of Jesus Christ in the world.

 

Canyon Ridge Christian Church does not wish to enter into the debate over the legislation in Uganda. We do encourage those involved to seek God’s leadership in humility and grace and to follow Jesus command to love one another as they wrestle with this difficult issue. Our prayers are for the good of the people Uganda.

Oral Roberts University – Martin Ssempa is on the Board of Reference for ORU. Public Relations Director, Jeremy Burton explained the Board of Reference duties:

  • This Board of Reference is to provide for effective communication an informative exchange and service among the public, ORU’s stakeholders, and the University.
  • A board of reference is for the purpose of credibility, for reputation, and for influence.
  • As a member of the Board of Reference, your name and your circle of influence lends reputation to the credibility of Oral Roberts University.
  • A board of reference has no voting privileges and does not have any regularly scheduled meetings.

Mr. Burton declined to issue any other statement regarding the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Watch this space for updates…

Uganda pastors task force video response to Rick Warren

In case the letter did not get across the message, here is the video from the Uganda National Pastors Task Force Against Homosexuality. According to Pastor Ssempa, Rick Warren’s encyclical is having some effect there, prompting this response.

First, the brief introduction and then I will embed the videos.

UGANDA NATIONAL PASTORS TASK FORCE AGAINST HOMOSEXUALITY

Task-force Chair: Martin Ssempa PhD

familypolicycenter@gmail.com

The Islamiic Office of Social Welfare in Uganda
The Roman Catholic Church in Uganda
Dear Pr. Rick,
Warm New Years Greetings. Further to our letter, kindly find the link to the video version of  our response to your letter.
Uganda Pastors’ response Letter to Rick Warren 1 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YqEw6rq-V8)
Uganda Pastors’ response Letter to Rick Warren 2 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRNyZsYI17Q)
We await your response at your earliest.
Martin Ssempa, PhD
 
The taskforce represents
The National Fellowship of Born again Churches
The Seventh Adventists Church
The Uganda Joint Christian Council which also represents:
The Orthodox Church in Uganda.
Part One

Part two

Uganda National Pastors Task Force Against Homosexuality demand apology from Rick Warren

Just now, Martin Ssempa sent an email to me and several others including Rick Warren and Christianity Today with this statement. It is similar but not identical to the letter Christianity Today published on Thursday, the 17th. In this letter, the coalition discloses that 20 ministers met and read Rick Warren’s encyclical. It appears they did not consider Warren’s theological points but rather responded with a defense of the bill as written.

UGANDA NATIONAL PASTORS TASK FORCE AGAINST HOMOSEXUALITY

Task-force Chair: Martin Ssempa PhD

The taskforce represents

The National Fellowship of Born again Churches

The Seventh Adventists Church

The Uganda Joint Christian Council which also represents:

The Orthodox Church in Uganda.

The Roman Catholic Church in Uganda

The Islamiic Office of Social Welfare in Uganda

Born Again Faith Federation 

familypolicycenter@gmail.com 

Dear Rick Warren, 

Christmas greetings from the Pro Faith, Family, and Human Rights Leaders here in Uganda. We acknowledge receipt of a letter from you in which you called on us (Ugandan Pastors) to “speak out” against the proposed “Anti-homosexuality Bill 2009” which is currently before our parliament. This bill has been greatly misrepresented by some homosexual activists causing hysteria and we take this opportunity to give you the background, facts and response to the concerns you raised. A special meeting of 20 denominational heads met on Thursday 17th Dec in the offices of the minister of Ethics and Integrity, examined your letter and formed a joint task force to respond to you as well as help support the parliament in the passage of this bill.  We are further distressed by your unwarranted abuse of our duly elected officials who are in the process of making laws in the fulfillment of their mission and make demand that you biblically issue an apology for having wronged us as demonstrated by the facts of this letter. 

Developments underlying the Bill

Several developments in Uganda and around the world constitute the compelling circumstances that have necessitated the Anti-homosexuality Bill. These include:

a) increasing incidents of homosexual abuse of children and youth by people exercising power and influence over them like teachers, pastors, parents etc. A recent report shows this. Uganda: Child Abuse rampant.;

b) recruitment of youth into homosexual practice with inducements including money. (Homosexual admits recruiting students).  While we have a law that currently prohibits “acts against the order of nature”, this law is not comprehensive enough to cover the promoters of these acts.  The draft law seeks to stop promotion and further recruitment of unsuspecting children and youth into homosexuality.

c) promotion of homosexuality by some organizations, including a pro-gay book by UNICEF circulated in schools without seeking permission of the Ministry of Education; (UNICEF Book supports teen homosexuality)

d) creation of organizations whose sole purpose is to promote homosexuality in Uganda; (e.g. (Sexual Minorities Uganda); (Gay Uganda); (Integrity Uganda)

e) government-led campaigns at the UN led by some countries like France and Brazil to secure a UN General Assembly resolution imposing homosexuality as an internationally protected human right. For example, on November 18th 2008, France and Netherlands initiated a law which seeks to use the UN to push homosexuality on other nations of the world. This explains provisions in the Bill preventing ratification of treaties and conventions affirming homosexuality and related practices.

f) un-believable growth in the power of the homosexual lobby in western countries, clearly seen since this Bill was proposed in Uganda – entire governments in Europe and America have used their diplomatic offices on an issue that should be freely debated and dealt with by their citizens at civil society level.

g) the mistake in western society, where the issue of homosexuality was treated with kid-gloves as a minor, private issue, but these societies are waking up too late on realizing that the matter affects how their entire society is ran, what children are taught at school and literally what everybody “must believe and practice”. This waking-up is for example seen in anti-gay-marriage campaigns in United States, where US citizens are fighting to retain family values against stiff competition from gay-activists in 31 states where the matter has come up for a referendum vote, winning such battles by the skin of their teeth. These countries are stuck with a huge population of their citizens that has been recruited into homosexual practice over decades of lax attitude that has seen the rise of powerful, well-funded organizations that misinform children and youth about homosexuality and daily recruit them into their ranks. This discontented population is angry, a threat to public order and is demanding equality for self-evident disordered and harmful behavior. This represents a mismanagement of human behavior by public institutions, because legal safeguards were not put in place in time to prevent the spread of homosexuality and related practices.

h) The take-over by homosexuals of western institutions that should have remained as defenders and protectors of moral integrity in society, particularly the church, to the extent that even evangelical church leaders in America no longer protest when a practicing homosexual is appointed into pastoral leadership in the church (e.g. the election to the office of Bishop of  Mary Glasspool in your state of California last week and Gene Robinson in New Hampshire before her). This institutional takeover by homosexuals has been systematic and planned, to the extent that other bodies like the UN, national governments, financial institutions, private companies, NGOs, etc. have become spokespersons of the gay movement and daily use official resources to promote the gay agenda and to arm-twist anyone who opposes this agenda. In a globalized world, this western takeover of institutions by homosexuals has turned into international promotion of homosexuality and of other vices like abortion and pornography in other countries.

Some members of Parliament in Uganda have looked at all these developments as a threat to strongly held family values in Uganda and everywhere and have sought to use their mandate as people’s representatives to seek remedies before it is too late. The Anti-homosexuality Bill, 2009, therefore, while acknowledging that homosexuality is not an innate condition, states as its object: “to establish a comprehensive consolidated legislation to protect the traditional family by prohibiting (1) any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; and (2) the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations in public institutions and other places through or with the support of any Government entity in Uganda or any non-governmental organization inside or outside the country”.

What’s the death penalty all about?

Some people have asked about the rationale of a death penalty mentioned in the Bill. There has been a lot of misinformation about this matter with headlines such as: “Gays face death penalty in Uganda”. These headlines are deliberately misleading. This penalty applies only in special cases termed “aggravated homosexuality”, which include, those convicted of unlawful homosexual rape of a child or handicapped invalid; This is a conviction of paedophilles! As highlighted in the problem of “virgin rape cures HIV/AIDS”  the offender can be a person living with HIV; a parent or guardian of the victim where there is abuse of authority! Finally is the use of drugs to stupefy the child so that they can rape them!. Clearly, the intent of this penalty is to protect weaker members of society from being victimized. Please note that for over 15 years Uganda has had the same penalty for persons who have carnal knowledge of minors heterosexually, mainly to protect against sexual abuse of girls by men. This time, this provision intends to provide equal protection of boys, among others.

In the early 1990s, at the height of the HIV Crisis, Uganda sought to protect children, principally girls, from sexual abuse by adults and infection with HIV. There was troubling concern over some people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWA) who raped and infect girls with HIV/AIDS in a grotesque belief of a “virgin sex cure” prescribed by some witchdoctors. Since 1997, Section 123 of the Penal Code only provided protection against defilement (sexual abuse) of girls under 18 years of age. Section 123(1) states that: – “Any person who unlawfully has sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of eighteen years is guilty of an offense and is liable to suffer death.” Sub-section 2 of Section 123 of the Penal Code provides for attempts to defile a girl under the age of eighteen years. It states that: “Any person who attempts to have unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of eighteen years is guilty of an offense and is liable to imprisonment for eighteen years with or without corporal punishment”. This has and continues to be the law which no one has complained that it is unchristian or a human right violation. Many boys have been violated without legal protection leaving their evil oppressors to get away with no law enforcement protection. The current draft law, simply aims at providing equal protection of the boy child and other vulnerable persons, as currently exists for the girl child. The question for you is this; does the sexual abuse of a boy constitute a lesser crime than the rape of a girl?

The question of human rights and privacy:

Some people have asked whether this law raises questions of human rights infringement. Some have asked whether it infringes the right to privacy, for example, asking what legitimate interest the state has in what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms? But not all things done in private are free of negative consequences on the public. Most harmful behavior occurs in private: corruption, bribery, abortion, murder, rape, etc. Many laws prohibit these private practices. Practices like homosexuality and bisexuality are associated with serious, yet preventable public-health risks. The risk of HIV transmission in male homosexuality is for example about 10 times that of heterosexual sex, simply due to use of parts of the body for inappropriate functions. Other diseases and medical complications are also associated with these practices. Secondly, by its nature, behavior spreads in the population through experimentation, modeling and social affirmation. Increase in homosexual and bisexual practice could thus rapidly reverse Uganda’s success against HIV/AIDS. The state’s interest in public health requires that it takes action on these preventable health risks, not only through education, but also legal deterrents for those who misinform and mislead the public.

An organization recruiting and encouraging people to continue in homosexual practice lacks justification but one dealing in counseling and helping people with behavior management is justified. The clause requiring mandatory reporting of known offenses may therefore need an amendment to exempt disclosure made in counseling situations.

Our Historical Struggle:

When you-(Rick Warren) came to Uganda on Thursday, 27 March 2008, and expressed support to the Church of Uganda’s boycott of the pro-homosexual Church of England, you stated; “The Church of England is wrong, and I support the Church of Uganda”. You are further remembered to say, “homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus (its) not a human right. We shall not tolerate this aspect at all”. (Gay Row-US Pastor supports country on boycott) He was indeed affirming Uganda’s long historical struggle against institutionalized homosexuality. This recent boycott was not the beginning of the struggle. In fact on June 3rd 1886, 26 Ugandan Christian converts to were martyred for their stand against a deviant king who had taken to the practice of sodomy. Their faith in Christ emboldened them to stand against homosexuality, resisting even up to death. Today we honor them, and June 3rd is a national holiday where millions of Ugandan believers converge to remember and renew their strength.(When faith, state and state inspired homosexuality clash).  As you yourself have said, “..the Bible says evil has to be opposed. Evil has to be stopped. The Bible does not say negotiate with evil. It says stop it. Stop evil”. (12/2007)  Since homosexuality is evil, you cannot possibly be against a law that seeks to stop it unless you have misunderstood it. 

Clarification on the spirit of the Mandatory reporting clause 14:

Finally, sexual abuse of children takes place in institutions such as boarding schools, churches etc. Research by ACFODE, “The situational review of rape, sexual harassment and defilement 2005” in three districts found unusually high levels of coercive heterosexual/homosexual rape and harassment especially in single-sex schools.  Unfortunately the school officials and some police officers, maintain a conspiracy of silence, ignoring the pleas of the children and victims who report these crimes. They value the reputation of the school or other institution above the welfare of the children and adults in their custody. This is the reason for section 14, of mandatory reporting of the offenses within 24 hours. 

This reporting is similar to the mandatory reporting of all “unlawful sexual intercourse” in the state of California in Penal Code 11165 which includes, – rape (261), incest (285), sodomy (286), child molestation (647.6), and statutory rape (261.5). California Penal Code 11166; 11165.7 requires that Teachers, Social workers, District attorneys, Doctors, Psychologists, marriage and family counselors, clergy members and state or county public health employees are required by law to report “unlawful sexual intercourse” as defined by the state of California. If mandatory reporting has been deemed necessary in other in America on sexual offenses, Uganda could use the same measure in specified situations.

What has been our recommendation on the law?

At a special sitting of the Uganda Joint Christian Council a taskforce sat and reviewed the bill to make comments. We resolved to support the bill with some amendments which included the following: 

a. We suggested reduction of the sentence to 20 years instead of the death penalty for the offense of aggravated homosexuality.

b. We suggested the inclusion of regulations in the law to govern provision of counseling and rehabilitation to persons experiencing homosexual temptations. The churches are willing to provide the necessary help for those seeking counseling and rehabilitation.

c. Even with the provision for counseling and rehabilitation in the law, homosexuality should remain a punishable offense to control its spread.

Warning of a widening shift.

We note with sadness the increasing levells of accepting of the evil of homosexuality. The ordination of Mary Glasspool a Lesbian as a bishop in Los Angeles without any condemnation from you, has increased the widening gap between the global south church in Africa and the global north church in Europe and America. In these increasingly dark days, we encourage you not to give into the temptation to water down what the bible says so as not to offend people.  Jesus’s gospel is a stumbling block, and a rock of offense.  Rick you are our friend, we have bought many of your books and have been blessed by them. Do not let the pressure of bloggers and popular media intimidate you into becoming a negotiator for homosexual paedophillia rights in Africa. As you yourself say about evil, – “the Bible says evil has to be opposed. Evil has to be stopped. The Bible does not say negotiate with evil. It says stop it. Stop evil.”(RW-12/2007) Since the bible says that the giant of  homosexuality is an “abomination” or a great evil, you cannot achieve the peace plan without  a purpose driven confrontation with evil.  

Ugandan Clergy Demand for your apology within:

Please note that on Friday 11th December, more than 200 of Uganda’s top religious leaders met and supported the legislators in strengthening the law against homosexuality.  (Church leaders back anti-gay bill.) The issue is, we all want the law on homosexuality, the only debate is on what penalties are appropriate.

Your letter has caused great distress and the pastors are demanding that you issue a formal apology for insulting the people of Africa by your very inapropriate bully use of your church and purpose driven pulpits to coerse us into the “evil” of Sodomy and Gaymorrah. This is expected within seven days from this date.

Sincerely Yours, 

Martin Ssempa, Phd

Bishop David Kiganda

Pastor Ssozi Peter

Prof. Peter Claver Matovu

Seventh Day Church Representative.

familypolicycenter@gmail.com

PS: A video Youtube response will be sent as possible.

The taskforce represents

The National Fellowship of Born again Churches

The Seventh Adventists Church

The Uganda Joint Christian Council which also represents:

The Orthodox Church in Uganda.

The Roman Catholic Church in Uganda

The Islamiic Office of Social Welfare in Uganda

Note that the coalition met on the 17th in the office of the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Nsaba Buturo. One has to assume that the recommendations for altering the bill will get a pretty solid hearing.

Regarding the defense of the bill, I addressed some of these claims yesterday. This letter addresses the actual bill a bit more directly than the Christianity Today version. Here, the Ugandan Task Force acknowledges that they are addressing private conduct of adults and not just child abuse. However, when they suggest restrictions on homosexuality will somehow address the HIV problem, they ignore the fact HIV in Uganda is primarily a heterosexual problem. In essence they ignore the religious arguments against the bill and attempt to make a weak public health argument. 

Clearly, some alterations in the bill are forthcoming and these will be debated in 2010.

UPDATE: Martin Ssempa has reactivated his website and has the statement posted there as well

Ugandan blogger: Anti-homosexuality bill tabled until January, 2010

Blogger Gay Uganda reports on a public television talk show in Uganda featuring the member of parliament who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 (David Bahati) and Pastor Martin Ssempa.

GU noted:

Oh, and I gathered from MP Bahati that the bill has been scheduled to be brought back in Jan 2010. Parliament was too busy, just now, to handle the important matter of the Anti- Homosexuality bill. Apparently it is very, very far ahead in the future, but that gives you time to check in with your MP and tell them how much you support the Bahati Bill.

Gay Uganda also described in detail the appearance of Martin Ssempa. The blogger said that Ssempa is squarely behind the bill and believes any legislator who votes against it is pro-gay. According the GU, Ssempa issued warnings:

  • Warning all Ugandan politicians. this is the time to get off the fence about homosexuality. You are either pro or anti-homosexual. No middle ground.
  • If you dont support the bill, political suicide. Because Ugandans support the bill.
  • Ssempa appears to be taking the lead on the support for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

  • He has formed a new organisation (must have a conglomerate by now) called the Family Policy Centre.
  • He gave the phone number, and his email address ssempam@gmail.com for anyone with questions.
  • And, he told people to send him money.
  • American Christians have some culpability for this situation by going to Uganda and failing to speak against this error. American Christians need to step up and speak now. I call upon those supporting Ugandan Christian groups to work with their Ugandan brethren to withdraw this bill.

    For more information, join this Facebook group.

    Now Obama is a bigot?

    We are most likely at an impasse of sorts in the culture. The Rick Warren prayer is the kind of event which brings into bold relief the issues which divide. We have discussed on this blog before whether or not the gay-evangelical divide is a zero-sum situation — for one side to prevail, the other side must be defeated. John Cloud at Time magazine gives me evidence to think the divide continues to be wide. About Barack Obama, he writes:

    Obama has proved himself repeatedly to be a very tolerant, very rational-sounding sort of bigot. He is far too careful and measured a man to say anything about body parts fitting together or marriage being reserved for the nonpedophilic, but all the same, he opposes equality for gay people when it comes to the basic recognition of their relationships.

    John Cloud here redefines bigot. Bigot means someone who is intolerant of others opinions and actions. Seemingly unaware of the contradiction, Cloud calls Obama a “very tolerant sort of bigot.”
    I am thinking out loud here, but I wonder if the impasse comes down to beliefs and how these are properly lived out in a democracy. I don’t think it is about “being” gay/straight or being wired to experience opposite- or same-sex attraction. I say this because one may experience same-sex attraction and find that experience something unacceptable for reasons of morality, or for more pragmatic reasons. One may not value some impulses which rightly or wrongly are believed to lead to undesireable consequences. Thus, the divide may be more about ideology than ontology.
    If I am right about the basic difference being ideological, then how do we regard people who disagree with us on matters of belief? Do we call them bigots? Do we say you disagree with me so you hate me and all that I am? Let’s leave “do” and go to “should.” Should conservatives say to liberals, you are bigots because you disagree with my beliefs? I do not think so. When John Cloud (who in my contacts with him seems quite tolerant of those who he apparently considers bigots) calls Barack Obama a bigot, does he not invite the same treatment? John you are a tolerant sort of bigot, I might say, when you come to an Exodus conference and converse cordially with the ex-gays.
    In the newspeak, bigot means someone who disagrees with me. I doubt this will be good.

    Gay leaders angry over inaugural invocation by Rick Warren

    Huffington Post and Politico.com have stories about this.
    Here is HuffPo’s Sam Stein’s take on it:

    Ever since Barack Obama was elected president, the media has been pining to write a story about liberal dissatisfaction with his transition efforts. By and large, the meme has been blown out of proportion, as the press overestimated how divisive Obama’s cabinet choices were for progressives.
    The press may now have its conflict moment. And it comes in the form of the spiritual leader chosen to launch Obama’s inauguration.
    On Wednesday, the transition team and Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced that Rick Warren, pastor of the powerful Saddleback Church, would give the invocation on January 20th. The selection may not have been incredibly surprising. Obama and Warren are reportedly close — Obama praised the Megachurch leader in his second book “The Audacity of Hope.” Warren, meanwhile, hosted a values forum between Obama and McCain during the general election. Nevertheless, the announcement is being greeted with deep skepticism in progressive religious and political circles.

    Gay leaders are furious.

    “Picking Rick Warren to give THE invocation,” wrote John Aravosis on AmericaBlog, “is abominable.”
    “Let me get right to the point,” Joe Solomnese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a harsh letter to the president-elect, “Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans.”

    Just yesterday, Obama picked Chicago’s Arne Duncan as Education secretary. The same Duncan who favored an all gay high school in Chicago. Clearly, Obama is more pro-gay than pro-social conservative but this choice is especially galling because Warren supported Proposition 8 in California.
    I suspect pro-choice advocates are none too happy either.
    I think Obama likes Warren even though he disagrees with him on many issues. Warren clearly brings together evangelical doctrine with social compassion in a way that is attractive. I suspect Obama would like to change Warren’s mind on issues but knowing he cannot, he wants to reinforce the good he sees in Warren and those likeminded.
    In any event, we all have to live together even though we disagree on how to even frame up the issues. I doubt Obama will back down on this and may use it as a means to get across a message of co-existence.
    UPDATE: 12/18/08 – Sam Stein has the Obama talking points regarding Rick Warren.

    • This will be the most open, accessible, and inclusive Inauguration in American history.
    • In keeping with the spirit of unity and common purpose this Inauguration will reflect, the President-elect and Vice President-elect have chosen some of the world’s most gifted artists and people with broad appeal to participate in the inaugural ceremonies.
    • Pastor Rick Warren has a long history of activism on behalf of the disadvantaged and the downtrodden. He’s devoted his life to performing good works for the poor and leads the evangelical movement in addressing the global HIV/AIDS crisis. In fact, the President-elect recently addressed Rick Warren’s Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health to salute Warren’s leadership in the struggle against HIV/AIDS and pledge his support to the effort in the years ahead.
    • The President-elect disagrees with Pastor Warren on issues that affect the LGBT community. They disagree on other issues as well. But what’s important is that they agree on many issues vital to the pursuit of social justice, including poverty relief and moving toward a sustainable planet; and they share a commitment to renewing America’s promise by expanding opportunity at home and restoring our moral leadership abroad.
    • As he’s said again and again, the President-elect is committed to bringing together all sides of the faith discussion in search of common ground. That’s the only way we’ll be able to unite this country with the resolve and common purpose necessary to solve the challenges we face.
    • The Inauguration will also involve Reverend Joseph Lowery, who will be delivering the official benediction at the Inauguration. Reverend Lowery is a giant of the civil rights movement who boasts a proudly progressive record on LGBT issues. He has been a leader in the struggle for civil rights for all Americans, gay or straight.
    • And for the very first time, there will be a group representing the interests of LGBT Americans participating in the Inaugural Parade.

    UPDATE: 12/18/08 – Rick Warren just issued a statement via the Christian Newswire. Here is the entire statement:

    Statement by Dr. Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church Regarding the Invitation from President-elect Obama to Deliver the Inaugural Invocation
    LAKE FOREST, Calif., Dec. 18 /Christian Newswire/ — “I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me, with whom he doesn’t agree on every issue, to offer the Invocation at his historic Inaugural ceremony.
    “Hopefully individuals passionately expressing opinions from the left and the right will recognize that both of us have shown a commitment to model civility in America.
    “The Bible admonishes us to pray for our leaders. I am honored by this opportunity to pray God’s blessing on the office of the President and its current and future inhabitant, asking the Lord to provide wisdom to America’s leaders during this critical time in our nation’s history.”
    Media Contact:
    A. Larry Ross 469.774.6362
    Kristin Cole 615.289.6701
    media@rickwarrennews.com

    Obama and McCain at Saddleback church

    Barack Obama and John McCain answered the same questions from pastor Rick Warren tonight regarding a wide range of issues at the Saddleback Civil Forum.
    Televised by CNN and FOXNews, I thought the format was well-conceived and allowed viewers to compare candidates on the same questions.
    One controversy which was immediate was Barack Obama’s reply to the question, “when does a baby qualify for human rights?” Obama took an agnostic position saying theologically and scientifically the answer was “above his pay grade.” McCain answered directly that life begins at conception. Obama also said the number of abortions had stayed the same through the Bush presidency, a claim immediately contested by the Americans United for Life via one of the Fox News commentators. I am looking for some documentation on the matter but I do not think Obama is correct on that point.
    Here is video where Obama says the number of abortions have stayed the same.

    The debate may have helped Obama with Evangelicals in one sense: he made a clear profession of faith in Christ. However, in my opinion, Evangelicals will now have to do a real check of what they consider basic. Is the sanctity of life a core issue or can it be considered a second tier issue in order to vote for a candidate who articulates an orthodox testimony of spiritual salvation?
    As for McCain, I think he helped himself enormously with Evangelicals via his performance in this forum. He demonstrated an emotional connection with the audience and had stories which connect with people. McCain’s responses seemed more at home at Saddleback with many more applause pauses from the crowd than received by Obama. I found him much more persuasive in that setting and with that audience than Sen. Obama.
    But then I am biased and I suspect Obama supporters will view the evening as a win in that Obama played reasonably well in a ballpark unfamiliar to prior Democratic candidates.
    UPDATE: According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group with close ties to Planned Parenthood, abortions declined throughout the Bush administration.