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Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire at Trini...Image via WikipediaThe Right Reverend Gene Robinson will be delivering the Invocation during the Inauguration!

No, Rick Warren hasn't been uninvited in favor of the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church and a voice of reason. Instead, Bishop Robinson will be delivering the invocation for a separate event that "kicks off" the inauguration festivities called the "National Day of Prayer." Robinson will deliver his prayer along with representatives of other denominations at the Lincoln Memorial.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Observer Update) - Gene Robinson, the Episcopal church’s first gay bishop, will deliver the invocation at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, January 18 - the formal kickoff leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Obama.

Thousands of people are expected to attend the service, including the President-elect.

“It will be an enormous honor to offer prayers for the country and the new president, standing on the holy ground where the ‘I have a dream speech’ was delivered by Dr. King, surrounded by the inspiring and reconciling words of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address,” Robinson wrote in a weekend e-mail to supporters.

“I am humbled and overjoyed at this invitation, and 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,” he said in the e-mail.

The announcement by the inaugural committee was one of two involving liberal religious leaders tapped by the committee. The Rev. Sharon Watkins, leader of the small Protestant denomination The Disciples of Christ, has been chosen to deliver the sermon at the National Prayer Service.

The election of Robinson as bishop in 2003 led to deep divisions within the worldwide Anglican Church and resulted in a number of parishes leaving the Episcopal umbrella while remaining Anglican.

Robinson has been a strong supporter of Obama and was vocal about his anger over the naming of Rev Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the inauguration on January 20 at the Capitol.

Warren, the pastor and founder of Saddleback Church in Southern California, ignited the ire of many liberals when he publicly supported California’s Proposition 8, which amended the state Constitution to ban gay marriage.

“The president-elect has respect for the Rt. Rev. Robinson, who offered his advice and counsel over the past couple of years,” an inaugural official told The Politico Web site. “It also has the benefit of further reinforcing our commitment to an open and inclusive inaugural.”

The official also said that the selections of Robinson and Watkins were made before the furor over Warren erupted.

Watkins is the first woman leader of The Disciples of Christ and the first woman to give the sermon at the traditional event, to be held Jan. 21 at the National Cathedral.

The service will include prayers, readings and hymns delivered by religious leaders of a variety of faiths.

The Disciples of Christ has about 850,000 members in the United States and Canada.

It says its work is “influenced by its founding ideals of our unity in Christ with openness and diversity in practice and belief.”

Most of the denomination’s churches are LGBT welcoming, although some, particularly in the South, are not. As congregationalists, each church is free to set its own policies.

Because of the divisions over sexuality, the Disciples of Christ has not taken a position on same-sex marriage. Watkins in an interview with The New York Times said she also has not made up her mind on the issue.

President-elect Obama has said he is not in favor of gay marriage but supports civil unions for same-sex couples and the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

In 1997 at its annual convention, the Disciples of Christ urged the enactment of “legislation on local, state and national levels which will end the denial of civil rights and the violation of civil liberties for reasons of sexual orientation.”

The resolution specifically recognized that “the church, among other elements of society, has contributed to the persecution and suffering of homosexuals, and it is its culpability in this regard which provides one reason for seeking a more enlightened understanding.”

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