Robinson calls participation in Lincoln Memorial concert 'humbling'[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson will give the invocation January 18 at the first event in a week of celebrations marking President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration.
Robinson told Episcopal News Service that his participation in the "We Are One" concert at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. is "a wonderful opportunity for the Episcopal Church and certainly the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New Hampshire to be represented at this historic event and I am honored and not a little overwhelmed at the responsibility."
"I just hope I can live up to it," he added.
Robinson said he was invited by the inaugural committee to participate in the event about two-and-a-half weeks ago and that he had cooperated with the team's request that an announcement be held until some details were worked out.
His participation in the event stands in contrast to the December 17 announcement that Obama had asked theRev. Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church and a leading conservative evangelical, to deliver the invocation at the January 20 swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Robinson, who is openly gay and in June entered into a legal civil union with his long-time partner Mark Andrews, was prominent among those who criticized the president-elect's choice of Warren, who has equated gay relationships to incest and child abuse.
When Warren's invitation was announced, Robinson told the New York Times that "it was like a slap in the face," adding that "the God that he's praying to is not the God that I know."
Robinson told ENS that "the [Obama] transition team was in touch with me about that and I with them and I was very forthcoming in my feeling that this was a very troublesome choice not because Rick Warren's voice shouldn't be at the table but that this particular venue where he was being invited was not a roundtable discussion of a lot of different opinions" but that instead Warren would be "the prayer voice at the most-watched inaugural in history."
He praised parts of Warren's ministry. "I feel very positively about Rick Warren in some ways. He has broken from his evangelical brothers and sisters around his compassion of AIDS victims and his working on alleviating global poverty," Robinson said. "It's just that the views he holds about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are pretty awful and he even confirmed the statements that he has made comparing our relationships to incest and child abuse. That is extraordinarily troublesome."
However, Robinson told ENS January 12 that he did not think the invitation to participate in the Lincoln Memorial event was meant to balance out Warren's participation. Instead, Robinson suggested, the invitation was based on his early support of Obama, with whom he met several times during the New Hampshire primary.
"I became very convinced that his message against polarizing the nation but in fact drawing it together was one that everyone needed to hear so I became quite supportive of him and his campaign," Robinson said, adding that he advised the campaign and Obama "behind the scenes" particularly around gay and lesbian issues.
"It's certainly the case that the LGBT community will notice [Robinson's invitation] and it will matter a lot but I don't think that was the primary impetus for this," the bishop said.