On Sunday, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop will offer a prayer at the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural event for President-elect Barack Obama. The selection of New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson for Sunday’s event follows weeks of criticism from gay-rights groups over Obama’s decision to have Warren pray at his Jan. 20 inauguration.
Robinson said last month the choice of Warren was like a slap in the face. In an interview with the Concord Monitor, he said he doesn’t believe Obama invited him to quell the Warren flap, but said his participation represents an important minority consituent.
“It’s important for any minority to see themselves represented in some way,” Robinson told the newspaper. “Whether it be a racial minority, an ethnic minority, or in our case, a sexual minority. Just seeing someone like you up front matters.”
Robinson, 61, endorsed Obama in August 2007, causing some to wag their fingers at the clergyman for mixing religion and politics.
“As my work shows me every day, leadership means bringing people together and inspiring them to live out their values,” Robinson said at the time “Barack Obama sees beyond the partisanship and hopelessness that have dominated in recent years, and the movement he’s building is bringing vital new energy and optimism into our democratic process.”
Some Episcopalians resent Robinson, believing that far from “bringing people together” his 2003 consecration has driven a wedge between liberals and conservatives in the church in the United States and abroad. Last month, theological conservatives upset by liberal views of U.S. Episcopalians and Canadian Anglicans formed a rival North American province because they believe Robinson’s relationship violates Scripture.
In fact, Robinson said in his interview with the Concord paper that he would not use a Bible in his address at Lincoln Memorial.
“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.”