Profiles on the Right: Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the senior pastor of Saddleback Church and a bestselling author of self-help books, most notably The Purpose Driven Life. A seasoned opponent of LGBTQ equality and women’s reproductive freedom, he falsely bills himself as a moderate and disguises his homophobia by issuing post-hoc denials.

In 2008, for example, Warren endorsed California’s Proposition 8 in a YouTube video, but he subsequently distanced himself from the measure to deflect critiques after it had passed. He defended his opposition to same-sex marriage the same year, saying that it was consistent with opposition to incest, pedophilia, and polygamy. Yet he has since denied making such comparisons. Warren has also compared punching someone in the nose to acting on feelings of same-sex attraction: “Sometimes I get angry and feel like punching a guy in the nose. That doesn’t mean I act on it. Sometimes I feel attracted to women who are not my wife. I don’t act on it . . . Not everything natural is good for me. Arsenic is natural.”

Saddleback is a Southern Baptist megachurch based in Lake Forest, CA, with multiple branches in Southern California. It also has international branches in Berlin, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, and Manila, and Warren’s global agenda is expansive. In 2005, he announced his “P.E.A.C.E. Plan,” a “massive effort to mobilize Christians around the world.” More Saddleback branches are in the planning stages for Africa and Russia. Warren received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. His dissertation adviser at Fuller was C. Peter Wagner, the leading strategist behind the theocratic, globally ambitious “apostolic and prophetic movement,” or New Apostolic Reformation.

Warren travels extensively in Africa as part of his HIV/AIDS ministry, taking his right-wing agenda with him. He has partnered with anti-LGBTI African Anglican bishops, including Peter Akinola (Nigeria), Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda), Benjamin Nzimbi (Kenya), and Henry Luke Orombi (Uganda), as well as Martin Ssempa, an aggressively anti-LGBTI pastor in Uganda.

In 2008, Warren announced a “Purpose Driven Living” campaign in Uganda. His website reported that the 2008 visit to Uganda “resulted in a self-sustaining, grass-roots coalition connecting government, business and church leaders in an unprecedented way.” Warren, who had initiated a similar program in Rwanda in 2005, said that “in 1935, the East African revival broke out in Rwanda and Uganda, which spread to all of Africa. My prayer is, ‘God, do it again.’ ” He also said of homosexuality that it is unnatural and “we shall not tolerate this aspect at all.” When Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in 2009 (with its death penalty provision), Warren initially refused to oppose it. Under intense pressure, he eventually reversed his position, calling the bill “unjust, extreme, and un-Christian toward homosexuals.” When the bill was revived in 2012, he issued a 102-character tweet opposing it.

During Warren’s 2008 trip, which included stops in Kenya and Rwanda, he met with African leaders amid protests over the U.S. Episcopal Church’s consecration of Gene Robinson, a gay man, as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. Though not an Anglican himself, Warren promoted schism within the Episcopal Church by siding with anti-LGBTI African bishops and their breakaway congregations and allies in the United States. His trip to Africa was facilitated by Henry Luke Orombi, who was then the archbishop of the Church of Uganda and a leader of the anti-LGBTI faction within the Anglican Church. “Someday, we will have a purpose-driven continent,” Orombi said during Waren’s visit.

For more details, see American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism.

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