The Reverend Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life, is slowly returning to the spotlight with a mixed gay message.

Warren took a low profile after he gave the invocation prayer at President Obama's inauguration in January. The pick was protested by gay bloggers and activists, who pointed to the minister's extensive anti-gay biography.

Critics argued that Warren was not qualified to represent the nation because he holds anti-gay views, including supporting the controversial ex-gay movement that claims being gay can be “cured” and in supporting Proposition 8, the voter-approved ballot measure that banned gay marriage in California, he likened such marriages to an incestuous relationship, pedophilia and even polygamy.

But after nearly a year, Warren is back, and attempting to blur his past remarks on gay issues with an irreconcilable message.

Speaking with David Gregory on NBC's Meet The Press, Warren said a person's sexual orientation was irrelevant when somebody is hurting, referring to his work with HIV-positive people.

“I have understood that so many people today get stigmatized for different things. Now, of course, I have biblical beliefs on – about homosexuality. But when somebody's dying on the side of the road, you don't walk up to them and say, you know, 'What's your nationality?' or, 'What's your lifestyle?' or, 'What's your, your gender preference?' or, you know, anything else. You just help the guy. … My role is to love everybody.”

But minutes later, Warren told Gregory that he would actively oppose gay marriage if the issue returned. (California gay activists are working to put the question on the 2010 ballot.)

“I didn't fight it in the last issue,” he said, adding that he only mentioned it once to his congregation when asked. “As a pastor, I happen to believe what the Bible says. But I also believe that I understand the pain that people feel from rejection. So I care about both angles.”

When asked about gay marriage last year at the height of the campaign by editor Steven Waldman at, Warren said: “I'm opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I'm opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I'm opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.”

“Do you think, though, that they are equivalent to having gays getting married?” Waldman asked.

“Oh, I do,” Warren answered.

Warren now says he's “not a politician” and “never takes sides.”

So it's no surprise then that the pastor will not condemn a proposed anti-gay law in Uganda that includes a death penalty provision. Under the law, gay men and lesbians would be put to death for “aggravated homosexuality” if they are HIV positive or have a history of violating the law.

The legislation is supported by Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan pastor who has made appearances at Warren's Southern California Saddleback Church. Warren distanced himself from Ssempa in October after the relationship was criticized.

When asked by Newsweek to comment on the bill, Warren's neutrality edged out his newly-found compassion for gay people in peril: “The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.”

But to many, Warren's attempts to reintroduce himself as pro-gay, or at best as neutral, ring hollow.

“He knows as well as anyone that in a case of great wrong, taking sides is an important thing to do,” Lisa Miller wrote in a post at the Newsweek blog The Human Condition.