The firestorm of protest after Obama's announcement that right-wing evangelist and would-be theocrat Rick Warren was going to be delivering the inaugural invocation evidently had BO and his team re-thinking their whole approach. Now the Boston Globe is reporting that gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson - the guy who started a blistering controversy of his own that resulted in a split in the worldwide Episcopal Church - has been chosen to offer a pre-inauguration prayer.
President-elect Barack Obama, facing criticism from gay rights advocates for picking an evangelical pastor who helped overturn same-sex marriage in California to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, has chosen the openly gay Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire to offer a prayer at a pre-inauguration event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Obama's choice, announced yesterday, of Bishop V. Gene Robinson to deliver the invocation at a star-studded inaugural celebration Sunday evening was immediately greeted with praise by gay rights advocates, who had been irate over the invitation to Rick Warren, one of the nation's most prominent evangelicals. Among the critics had been Robinson, an early Obama supporter who said yesterday he is now hoping that he will be able to sit down with Warren before either of them gives his opening invocation next week.
Certainly that should help wind down the criticism from gay groups though it may not do much for those of us with much deeper Warren-problems than his anti-homosexual mania, bad as that is. More interesting is the fact that they've cannily used the opportunity to re-vamp the ceremonies, adding two other disparate prelates as well in an effort to manifest Obama's openness and the inclusivity of his message.
Robinson and Warren are two of four Protestant clergy given prominent prayer spots during the inaugural festivities - a United Methodist civil rights leader, Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, is giving the closing benediction at the inauguration next Tuesday, and the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, general minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), is giving the sermon at the national prayer service the following day.
"These are all very different people, with very different kinds of messages, from different churches and different backgrounds, and again it just underscores how diverse we can be when coming together," said Linda Douglass, Obama's inauguration spokeswoman.
Very nice, though, again, it doesn't solve the problem of Warren's high visibility up against the virtual invisibility of the other three. Still, it's a step and one more indication that criticizing him works. Bear that in mind for the future.