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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

Obama Meets Mexican Leader

President-elect Barack Obama met Monday with Mexican President Felipe Calderón, telling reporters after their luncheon session that "my administration is going to be ready on Day One to work to build a stronger relationship with Mexico."

Holding his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader since his November election, Obama credited Calderón for battling his nation's murderous drug cartels and for his work on economic issues.

"Not only has he shown leadership in the economy, but he has shown extraordinary courage and leadership when it comes to the security issues, dealing with drug trafficking, dealing with the violence that has existed as a consequence of the drug trade," Obama said after the 90-minute session at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington.

Obama said he wants to forge close ties with Mexico, although as a candidate he also promised to renegotiate parts of the North American Free Trade agreement, which removed trade barriers among the United States, Mexico and Canada.

The meeting continued a long-standing tradition of presidents-elect meeting with Mexican leaders. Meanwhile, transition officials have said that Obama would make Canada the first international destination as president. Aides offered no information on the date for the trip or its agenda.

Canada is often the first foreign destination for newly elected U.S. presidents. But shortly after President Bush was sworn in in 2001, he deviated from that tradition, visiting Mexico.

-- Michael A. Fletcher

HOUSE, SENATE CHANNELS

From the Hill to YouTube

Congressional leaders from both chambers announced the launch of two new channels on YouTube: House Hub and Senate Hub.

Lawmakers can create and control their videos on the hubs, which funnel YouTube users to them through a Google map that makes it easy to find congressional channels by state. The hubs will be ad-free, to spare congressional members from potentially racy or controversial Web ads next to their messages.

Joined by leaders from each chamber, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in an introductory video, "While we may not see eye to eye on everything, one thing we can agree on is the importance of utilizing technology to communicate with constituents."

"Some of us have been posting original content there for years now," added House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

As of Sunday, about 130 House members and 46 senators already had YouTube channels, according to congressional staffers and YouTube officials.

-- Jose Antonio Vargas

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