Rick Warren on Museveni, Ssempa and Wagner: “I Know Not the Men”

Rick Warren has issued a statement speaking out against the proposed Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill:

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…

He goes on to discuss “Key Facts Concerning Recent Media and Blog Reports on Rick Warren’s  Position on Uganda” with responses to nine questions. He affirms that he is opposed to criminalization of homosexuality, and he deals with a quote that was atttributed to him in the Kampala Monitor in March 2008:

Dr [Rick] Warren said that homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right. “We shall not tolerate this aspect at all,” Dr Warren said.

Warren claims that this was a misquote:

 What I said in an interview in Uganda was that there is no civil right to gay marriage guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

In fairness, the wording of the Kampala Monitor does have a slightly unusual ring to it – but why wait so long to put the record straight?

Some of Warren’s other “Key Facts” are somewhat dubious. In particular:

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.

Yes, but Warren has had links with President Yoweri Museveni’s wife, First Lady Janet Museveni, who was delegate to a conference at Warren’s church. Why is this detail elided, when Warren makes a point of mentioning his lack of association with Ugandan MPs?

Related to this, another question asks:

Did 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 P.E.A.C.E. plan at the invitation of the churches there. Over 1,000 Saddleback members have served on humanitarian projects in Rwanda.

I noted that back in 2005, when Warren announced that

The President, Paul Kagame, has invited us to help Rwanda become the first ‘purpose-driven nation’

However, Bruce Wilson draws attention to the following official press release from 2008:

Dr. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, CA, this weekend launched a national Purpose Driven Living program in Uganda, a unified and focused effort to equip Ugandan leadership with practical tools to live lives of purpose in their homes, businesses, and communities.

This is the second East African country to invite Dr. Warren to bring the well- known Purpose Driven Life and Church leadership training to churches, businesses and government on a national scale. Rwanda adopted the program nationwide in 2005. Over 30,000 American churches – approximately one-tenth of the congregations across the country have used the 40 Days of Purpose emphasis.

…At a press conference and subsequent meeting with organizers upon arrival in the capital city of Kampala, Dr. Warren expressed appreciation to the coalition of national leaders who invited him to return for his fourth visit for a series of public meetings…

…While in Uganda, Dr. Warren met with First Lady Janet Museveni to discuss the PEACE Plan, an aggressive and progressive vision to promote reconciliation, equip servant leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick and educate the next generation. He also addressed students at Uganda Christian University…

The  press release clearly infers that Warren intends Uganda to follow the Rwanda model, and that he enjoys governmental support for his efforts. Now that Uganda is on a downward spiral with a president suffering from advancing “big man” syndrome (e.g. see here) and an increasingly debased civil society, it looks as though Warren is backpeddling.


Is Ugandan 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 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.

Warren’s repudiation of Ssempa was publicised last month. But Ssempa was not just one of 200 speakers; as Max Blumenthal reported in January:

When Warren unveiled his global AIDS initiative at a 2005 conference at his Saddleback Church, he cast Ssempa as his indispensable sidekick, assigning him to lead a breakout session on abstinence-only education as well as a seminar on AIDS prevention. Later, Ssempa delivered a keynote address, a speech so stirring it “had the audience on the edge of its seats,” according to Warren’s public relations agency. A year later, Ssempa returned to Saddleback Church to lead another seminar on AIDS. By this time, his bond with the Warrens had grown almost familial. “You are my brother, Martin, and I love you,” Rick Warren’s wife, Kay, said to Ssempa from the stage. Her voice trembled with emotion as she spoke and tears ran down her cheeks.


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.

In fact, nobody has suggested that Warren and Wagner are “conspiring” in an eliminationist plot – but Wagner’s views on how Christians should take “dominion” over society do not quite accord with the free society that Warren assures us he supports. However, there’s a puzzling discrepancy here. Various sites have posted the following FirstSearch Dissertations Abstracts listing:

Degree: D.MIN.
Year: 1993
Pages: 00413
Advisor: Mentor: C. PETER WAGNER
Source: DAI, 54, no. 03A, (1993): 0967

One can understand why Warren might want to play down this link: Warren represents the face of urbane mainstream evangelicalism, which is why he was invited to give the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration. Wagner, in contrast, is a rather more exotic figure: a neo-Pentecostal “Apostolic” leader, he receives regular messages from God and interprets all kinds of mundane events as the work of demons which need to be battled through acts of spiritual warfare and deliverance.

So, Warren may have had regular contact with Uganda’s First Lady, but that doesn’t mean he has had anything to do with the president. His wife may have called Martin Ssempa her “brother”, but that didn’t mean they were close in any way. And Peter Wagner may be listed as Warren’s thesis “mentor”, but that doesn’t mean he actually was. That’s three denials – time for the cock to crow?

(Hat tip: Bruce Wilson at Talk to Action)