in defense

The Las Vegas Church Claiming Pastor Martin Ssempa Is Getting a Bad Rap

Last month Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas said it would “review” its financial support for Uganda’s Pastor Martin Ssempa, the cheerleader of the Kill The Gays bill. Not only did Canyon Ridge decide it would not cut ties with Ssempa, it’s now defending him.

Warren Throckmorton, the psychology professor and writer, notes:

Canyon Ridge’s resistance comes even as the Willow Creek Association, a massive global network of evangelical churches that includes Canyon Ridge, distances itself from Ssempa. The WCA bestowed a “Courageous Leadership” award on Ssempa’s Kampala-based Makerere Community Church in 2007, but on Thursday, the group said that it no longer has a relationship with Ssempa and that it wouldn’t have honored his church had it been more fully aware of his views.

But Canyon Ridge, which considers Ssempa a “mission partner” and helps pay for staff at his Kampala church, is digging in its heels. After promising in early June to review Ssempa’s involvement in Uganda’s anti-gay movement, pastors Mitch Harrison and Kevin Odor said last week that they “do not believe Martin Ssempa to be the man the media and others have portrayed him to be.”

Portrayed him to be? The media needn’t act on Ssempa’s behalf; he portrays himself in public forums, in YouTube videos, and while speaking to television cameras just fine. This is a guy who even Rick Warren, in 2007, says he cut ties with (though it took until December for him to denounce the Uganda bill).