Openly gay bishop Rev. Gene Robinson of
New Hampshire has been invited to give a prayer during the
inauguration events of President-elect Barack Obama.
The announcement comes after weeks of
criticism by gay rights activists over the choice of Rev. Rick Warren
to give the invocation prayer at the inaugural ceremony. Gay
activists say Warren is homophobic. He likened gay marriage to an
incestuous relationship and polygamy, and supported passage of a
controversial California gay marriage ban.
Robinson, an early Obama supporter, has
often praised him for this acceptance of gay unions.
“It was like a slap in the face,”
Bishop Robinson said of the Warren choice last month.
“I'm all for Rick Warren being at the
table,” he said, “but we're not talking about a discussion, we're
talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the
most watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the
nation. And the God that he's praying to is not the God that I
Speaking by phone to the Concord
Monitor, Robinson said he did not believe the invitation was a
response to the Warren flap.
“It's important for any minority to
see themselves represented in some way,” Robinson said. “Whether
it be a racial minority, an ethic minority or, in our case, a sexual
minority. Just seeing someone like you up front matters.”
Robinson is to give his prayer Sunday
at an event attended by Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden on
the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during an inaugural kick-off event.
Obama will also speak at the event.
Warren is the best-selling author of
The Purpose Driven Life and heads the prominent evangelical
Saddleback church in Southern California. A rising leader in the
evangelical movement, Warren supports the outlawing of abortion in
all cases and is a staunch gay rights opponent. But his moderate
tone on AIDS, poverty and climate change have made him controversial
among social conservatives.
Warren will give his prayer during the
January 20 inauguration ceremony, a prologue to Obama's historic
An inaugural committee spokesman, Clark
Stevens, declined to answer if Robinson was invited to appease the
gay and lesbian community. “[Robinson is] an important figure in
the religious community,” Stevens said. “We are excited that he
will be involved.”
Robinson, 61, who lives in Weare, New
Hampshire with his longtime partner, said he has yet to write his
prayer, but won't use a Bible.
“While that is a holy and sacred text
to me, it is not for many Americans,” Robinson said. “I will be
careful not to be especially Christian in my prayer. This is a
prayer for the whole nation.”
The acceptance of openly gay clergy
remains a divisive issue in the Episcopal Church, and the 2003
consecration of an openly gay bishop has splintered the worldwide
church into several factions. In the United States, four dioceses
and dozens of parishes have broken away from the church over the