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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

DIVERSITY IN CLERGY

Festivities to Include Gay Bishop

Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man whose ordination helped touch off a worldwide struggle within his denomination over homosexuality and Scripture, will deliver the invocation Sunday at a concert to kick off the inaugural celebrations, officials said Monday.

The concert, at the Lincoln Memorial, will feature performances by Beyonce, U2 and Bruce Springsteen, among others. [Story, A1.] The Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, who leads the liberal-leaning Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), was tapped to give the sermon in the National Prayer Service at Washington National Cathedral, which concludes the inaugural ceremonies -- the first woman to lead that service.

The selections of Robinson and Watkins round out a group of theologically diverse ministers who will play prominent roles during Barack Obama's inauguration. Evangelical pastor Rick Warren will deliver the invocation during the inaugural ceremony -- a choice that riled some Obama supporters because of Warren's opposition to same-sex marriage -- while the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a black Methodist civil rights activist, will give the benediction.

Shaun Casey, an ethics professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington who served as an Obama campaign adviser, said the diverse choice of ministers is a "precursor of what the administration is going to look like."

Robinson endorsed Obama for president before the New Hampshire primary -- one of the first prominent religious leaders to land in Obama's camp. He served as a faith adviser to the campaign and also advised it on gay-rights issues.

But he called Obama's choice of Warren to deliver the invocation a "slap in the face." Warren supported California's Proposition 8 this fall, a measure that voters approved, outlawing same-sex marriage in that state.

In an e-mail to friends posted on the Web site Episcopal Cafe, Robinson wrote that "it will be my great honor to be there representing the Episcopal Church, the people of New Hampshire, and all of us in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community."

-- Jacqueline L. Salmon

TALK OF STRONGER TIES


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