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January 13, 2009


In what appears to be an attempt to quell the furor over Obama's pick for the inauguration day invocation, the president-elect has asked The Right Reverend Gene Robinson to offer the invocation at the inaugural opening ceremonies.

The inaugural kick-off event will be held Sunday, January 18th on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with president-elect Barack Obama at his side.

As I'm sure most of you know, Bishop Robinson was the first openly gay person to be ordained a Bishop in the Episcopal Church in 2003. His ordination made headlines around the world and the church is still going through a period of readjustments and realignments as a result. Much to the credit of the church's hierarchy, they have stood by their decision ever since even though some of their more hardline conservative dioceses have choosen to split from the worldwide main body of approximately 2.3 million members.

Although Robinson endorsed Obama even before the New Hampshire primaries and has offered the president-elect advice and counsel over that last couple of years, he was, like all of us, dismayed and frustrated over Obama's pick for the inaugural invocation. When he heard the news about Rick Warren, who has likened being gay to incest and statutory rape, Robinson said "it was like a slap in the face."

The Advocate reported that after receiving the invitation, Robinson told the New Hampshire Concord Monitor that he felt his inclusion in the opening event would be incredibly affirming to gay people.

"It's important for any minority to see themselves represented in some way," Robinson said. "Whether it be a racial minority, an ethnic minority, or, in our case, a sexual minority -- just seeing someone like you up front matters."

An editorial in today's Concord Monitor called Robinson's choice a blow against bigotry.

Robinson's elevation to New Hampshire bishop in 2003 was met with much euphoria here, but he quickly became the symbol of a growing fissure in the Anglican Church. Those who object most vigorously to the church's liberalization in recent years (gay clergy and female priests, for example) have made Robinson's ordination a final straw of sorts. He has been threatened with violence. Numerous conservative congregations have split from the church or aligned themselves with sympathetic bishops overseas. At a meeting of Anglican officialdom in England last summer, Robinson was pointedly excluded.

All of which, Obama seems to be saying, is less important than showing Americans that his administration will have room for all voices. That Obama - who knows well the risk of associating with controversial clergy - admires Robinson's own courage and compassion and is willing to prove it before the nation and the world.

Wow 'em, Bishop Robinson.

I couldn't agree more! Go Gene!