Appearing last night on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show, openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson said President-elect Barack Obama “stands with us,” and signaled he was ready to move past the controversy of his invitation.

Robinson is the controversial New Hampshire Episcopal bishop whose consecration in 2003 has split the Anglican Church.

He has been invited to give an opening prayer at a Sunday inaugural event attended by Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Obama is scheduled to speak at the event which will be broadcast on HBO.

The announcement has resurrected the controversy surrounding the choice of Rev. Rick Warren to give the invocation prayer at the January 20 inaugural ceremony, a prologue to Obama's historic inaugural address. 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.

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.

Robinson was an early critic of the decision, saying last month: “It was like a slap in the face.”

“I'm all for Rick Warren being at the table,” he told the New York Times, “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 know.”

But last night, Robinson, an early Obama supporter, said he believed his invitation was not an effort by the Obama transition team to appease the gay and lesbian community.

“I had the great opportunity to meet then-Senator Obama early on in the New Hampshire primary,” Robinson said. “And the thing that drew me to him was his talk of a vision of governing that was not about polarization, but about bringing us all together. I think it is a message that America hungers for, and it's certainly a message that religious people should support. And then I worked behind the scenes on the campaign, particularly advising Senator Obama around gay and lesbian issues. And so I think it [my invitation] was really based upon the brief but important relationship that he and I have been able to establish.”

Adding later, “I do feel very confident that this President-elect understands us and stands with us in the issues that are important to us.”

Warren applauded the decision to include Robinson.  According to a note published online at Christianity Today Warren said: “President-elect Obama has again demonstrated his genuine commitment to bringing all Americans of goodwill together in search of common ground. I applaud his desire to be the president of every citizen.”

Openly lesbian Maddow asked what events Robinson had been invited to attend. “I was invited to pronounce the invocation, which is just an amazing honor, and then invited, along with my partner, to participate in the swearing in, the national prayer breakfast, and a number of other private events,” Robinson replied.

The acceptance of openly gay clergy remains a divisive issue in the Episcopal Church, and Robinson's 2003 consecration has splintered the worldwide church into several factions. In the United States, four diocese and dozens of parishes have broken away from the church over the controversy.