I’ll see your Pastor Rick Warren and raise you a Bishop Gene Robinson.
In the high-stakes symbolism that the Obama Inauguration has become, the President-elect seems intent on one thing, making sure that Americans see themselves reflected in some aspect of the ceremonies, and that everyone is made just a little uncomfortable by the presence of someone with whom they disagree. Obama is certainly not shying away from controversy.
Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay man elevated to Bishop in the Episcopal Church, will offer a prayer at an inaugural event held on Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial. Robinson’s consecration as Bishop caused a few conservative congregations to affiliate with more socially conservative dioceses in the worldwide Anglican Communion, rejecting their participation in the governance of the US Episcopal Church. Ironically most of those have affiliated with African dioceses, as the first African-American President welcomes the prayers of Bishop Robinson.
Both Obama and Robinson downplay his selection as a response to the firestorm that broke out among gay rights group at the selection of Rick Warren to lead the invocation at the Inauguration. Warren has been a very polarizing figure because of his stand against the rights of gay, lesbian, bi and transgender people.
Regardless of the motivation, Robinson’s inclusion has to be a salve for many who felt wounded by Warren’s selection and is bound to raise hackles on the far-right.
Robinson has said he will offer a prayer that speaks to all Americans, not just Christians, owing the importance of the inauguration in the life of the country.