Gay bishop to take part in Obama ceremony
Published 13/01/2009 | 00:02
The world's first openly-gay bishop has been invited to take part in the inauguration proceedings of President-elect Barack Obama, it emerged today.
The Right Rev Gene Robinson will offer a prayer at the Lincoln Memorial - the site of Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech - during the opening ceremony next Tuesday.
The move is likely to anger conservative elements in the Anglican Church, some of whom have threatened to split over the issue of homosexuality.
Mr Robinson's inclusion comes after the controversial bishop criticised the decision to have Rev Rick Warren - who backs a ban on same-sex marriages - give the invocation at Mr Obama's inauguration.
Both Mr Obama and vice-president elect Joe Biden will attend the Lincoln Memorial event at which the gay bishop will speak, it is believed.
Mr Robinson, bishop for New Hampshire, said that he is not sure what he will say yet. But speaking on CNN he described the opportunity as "a remarkable and humbling thing to have happened".
He added that it showed that Mr Obama was "exactly who he said he was" when he said that he wanted "everyone at the table".
Clark Stevens, a spokesman for the inaugural committee, said that Mr Robinson was invited because he offered advice to Mr Obama during the campaign and because of his work with the church.
He described the gay bishop as "an important figure in the religious community" adding: "We are excited that he will be involved."
Mr Robinson went public with his sexuality in the 1980s and has since been in a 20-year relationship with current partner Mark Andrew.
His election to bishop in 2003 sent ripples through the Church of England, precipitating a running argument between traditionalist and modernists.
In a sign that the church could face a potentially irrevocable split over the issue, members of the Gafcon movement (Global Anglican Future Conference) established a traditionalist splinter group - the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans - earlier this year.
Mr Robinson visited the UK earlier this year in a high-profile visit which put further pressure on the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams to address the issue directly.