Lou Engle’s TheCall Coming to Uganda

As is being widely reported (and as was originally noticed by Bruce Wilson back in December), Lou Engle is planning to descend on Uganda next week, as part of a “National Call of Repentence” organised by TheCall Uganda, a local off-shoot of his “The Call” organisation and coordinated by Jo Anna Watson of  TouchingHearts International. The event will focus on a number of topics, such as “the heightened political tensions and wrangles in the country”; “the sins and shortcomings that have been happening in the body of Christ” (perhaps a reference to the 2007 scandals); “the widespread corruption and misappropriation of funds” (unlikely to be blamed on Museveni, who is great patron of neo-Pentecostalism); and “the increasing level of social evils in our society”, defined specifically as encompassing “witchcraft and human sacrifice” and “Homosexuality and increased immorality”.

Murders in the name of “witchcraft” have been documented in Uganda – both ritual killings and as a means to acquire body parts for magical purposes (the BBC recently reported on this, albeit in a problematic way). However, so have “witch killings”, in which innocent individuals are identified as witches and lynched. It is very unlikely that the “TheCall Uganda” will be emphasising the futility of magical practices from a scientific perspective; rather, witchcraft will almost certainly be presented as a malign spiritual force to be combated in “spiritual warfare”, and the problem of human sacrifice conflated with traditional religion.

However, it is the stress on homosexuality which is drawing most attention. Engle regards homosexuality as the result of demons – San Francisco has avoided the wrath of God only because his son lives there and is casting out spirits – and Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) has issued a statement about his visit:

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) condemns Lou Engle’s upcoming crusade scheduled for May 2, 2010.  The crusade could cause incalculable damage, as it is designed to label homosexuality as a “vice” in Uganda and to incite people to “fight” against this “vice” in society.  In the context of an already inflamed extremist religious movement against homosexuality in Uganda sparked off by American evangelicals, the inflammatory preaching of Lou Engle and his associates is likely to incite further violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in Uganda.

…This crusade could have the same kind of impact that the March 2009 anti-gay conference had in Uganda. Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge and Don Schmierer reinforced the desire of some religious leaders to persuade the government to create laws which would eliminate homosexuality from the nation. Eventually, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in the Parliament of Uganda by MP’s David Bahati and Benson Obua.

I blogged on the bill and its religious supporters in Uganda here.

Engle is one of the more distinctive leaders on the US Christian right, with a husky voice and a continual rocking motion that looks like some sort of nervous agitation but is actually a sign of constant prayer. He came to wider attention in the Jesus Camp documentary, and he enjoys high-level political access – last year he publicly blessed Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee. His views on abortion are literally sanguinary, as he exhorts believers to worship God in the aspect of “avenger of blood”. One activist with his Bound4Life anti-abortion movement in Ohio was Rifqa Bary, and after her flight to Florida he played a role in her unfolding saga; Right Wing Watch notes a recording of a phone conversation between them:

At the beginning of the clip, Lou Engle is told by one of the other participants that “their little sister” is on the line, at which point Engle introduces Rifqa Bary to the conference call participants and asks her to share her story.  Bary, sounding like a somewhat nervous but otherwise perfectly average teenager, recounts her conversion to Christianity and her decision to flee from the home of her Muslim parents in Ohio.  Following that, Engle declared Bary to be “an Esther for such a time as this” and asks her to lead the call in prayer, which she agrees to do, at which point she becomes seemingly hysterical and rather incoherent while sobbing and praying, making it nearly impossible to understand what she is saying outside of her repeated cries to Jesus… Soon Engle is joined by various others, all of whom pray for this modern day Esther who will lead Muslims out of Islam…

I blogged Engle on Islam here.

TheCall Uganda’s website lists some endorsements:

Bishop Simon Peter Emiau – Chairman Evangelical Fellowship of Uganda; His Grace Luke Henry Orombi – Archbishop of Church of Uganda; Pastor Jotham Mutebi – Chairman Full Gospel Churches of Uganda; Pastor Titus Oundo – Chairman Diliverance Churches of Uganda; Apostle John Mulinde – World Trumpet Mission; Apostle Jackson Ssenyonga – Christian Life Ministries; Pastor Gary Skinner – Watoto (formerly Kampala Pentecostal) Church; Apostle Joseph Ssewadda – General Overseer of Born Again Federation; Peter Asiimwe – Uganda Evangelical Mission Agency; Pastor Fred Wantaate – Coordinator for Pentecostal Golden Jubilee – Full Gospel Church

In 2001, Emiau was reported to have complained of homosexuals “invading” Mbale district, so that “Our cities have become like the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah”; Orombi’s views are well-documented, including the claim that “killer gays” are after him; Mulinde (as Bruce noted) is apparently the link-man to Engle through Jo Anna Watson; Garry Skinner is known for authoritarian views on sexuality, and a December 2009 profile notes that

In 2007, Uganda’s highest court struck down a law that made adultery a crime. Religious leaders took to their pulpits the next Sunday, which was Easter, to denounce the ruling. Gary Skinner, the founder and pastor at Watoto Church, was among them.

“We condemn all inhuman practices including homosexuality, prostitution which people are pushing for their legalisation,” the Monitor, a Ugandan news outlet, reported Skinner saying.

While not alone, Watoto is at the forefront of the anti-gay movement in Uganda.

Stephen Langa, an elder at Watoto and the head of the Family Life Network, produced a March conference on homosexuality in Uganda and at least two of the sessions were held at the church. He then pressed the government “to enact stringent laws against the practice,” an article in New Vision, a Ugandan newspaper, paraphrased him saying.

According to this fundamentalist site, Joseph Ssewadda (var. Joseph Serwadda) supports the execution of homosexuals on Biblical grounds, although there’s no other source for this claim. Fred Wantaate likens homosexuality to “burglary, prostitution, murder, and other behaviors considered harmful to our society”.