Rick Warren's Inaugural Participation Stirs Heated Debate President-elect Barack Obama has invited the Rev. Rick Warren to offer the opening prayer at his inauguration. The selection has infuriated pro-choice and gay marriage supporters. Others applaud Obama's outreach to the evangelical community. A three-person panel expresses their very different perspectives.

Rick Warren's Inaugural Participation Stirs Heated Debate

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With me to continue our conversation is Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. He's the senior pastor of the Hope Christian Church in the Washington D.C. area. He was active in the campaign to pass Proposition 8. Also with us is Harry Knox, he's the Faith and Religion Director at the Human Rights Campaign, which has played a central role in the movement for gay marriage. They're both here with me in Washington. And also joining us from California, Bishop Yvette Flunder who leads Refuge Ministries in San Francisco. She's on the phone with us from San Rafael. Thanks to all of you for staying with us.

JACKSON: Thank you.

MARTIN: Harry Knox, you said earlier that you felt that Rick Warren had used hateful language to talk about people in same-sex relationships. What is the evidence of that? Do you have evidence of that?

KNOX: Oh, the evidence is right on our Web site at www.hrc.org. The quotes are clear, I'll stand by them.

MARTIN: Well, but what about the point of inclusivity, though? The fact is that there as a theological division on this question. All the major mainstream denomination in this country at least had at least a division on this point. The United Methodist Church is divided over this point. The Episcopal Church is in division over this point. The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage, also. You know, could you put together an inaugural program and include everyone and actually do so in a way that doesn't have someone who disagrees with someone on a fundamental values perspective?

KNOX: Of course you could.

FLUNDER: That is basically my point.

MARTIN: I'm sorry. Let me let Harry answer then, Yvette, I'll bring you back in, if you would.

KNOX: Of course you can do that, and there were thousands of faith leaders who believed in Barack Obama's vision for change in America who worked for him, went door to door, raised money for him last year, who do that all the time, bring people together to dialogue around hard issues and to get those issues solved. And they do it at the intersection of the oppressions. He could have chosen anybody in the world other than Rick Warren from out of the field of people who actually supported his election. But he chose someone who supported John McCain and didn't deliver any votes in Orange County and really turned his back on people who are really about dialogue. Rick Warren is about talking to people and convincing them that he's right. He's not about real dialogue.

MARTIN: Bishop Flunder?

FLUNDER: That is the locus of my concern. My concern is that if Rick Warren, if we are choosing Rick Warren or Barack Obama has chosen Rick Warren to speak at the inaugural in order to cross the aisle, to involve what is a dissenting position to Barack Obama's decision, then what should happen is it should be clear that the realm of faith, the area of faith, does not belong only to people who oppose same-gender marriage and same-gender-loving people. There needs to be some very clear voices and those voices should be people of faith who are themselves openly and unapologetically same-gender loving people.

There are folks that are in this country, that are part of those faith organizations that you just talked about, denominations and such, the United Church of Christ which I'm a part of, and several other denominations that would be more than happy to be - there has to be a balance. The inauguration is not about dialogue. This is about representation. It's about people seeing people who represent their concerns and their ideas and their theology, and there's not - there needs to be a balance. There's not a balance there with Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery without having someone who is openly and unapologetically a same-gender-loving person.

MARTIN: Bishop Jackson?

JACKSON: Well, I disagree. Just on the proportionality of it, we could say we need more Korean Christians who believe certain things or Hispanics who have issues of immigration. This is political, but it's also spiritual. But there is an issue of representation of - the majority of evangelicals will see that Barack Obama is not holding any hard feelings about the fact that many of them did not vote for him and wondered whether he really would represent all the people. I think that's what this is about. I think the number of people who are openly gay in America is so miniscule, and I'm not trying to devalue you as a person, I'm just saying...

KNOX: You haven't stopped devaluing me as a person since you got here.

JACKSON: Well, that's an accusation.

MARTIN: But I mean, Bishop, forgive me, but Bishop, is the proof of justice in the voice of the majority?

FLUNDER: I mean, I...


MARTIN: From that standpoint, I mean, our - the claims of justice of African-Americans would have had no voice if it was a matter of numbers, right?

FLUNDER: (Unintelligible) you wouldn't be able to vote.

JACKSON: Well, I hear all that you're saying. Your argument, though, Bishop Flunder, was just a proportionality kind of argument. And again, I think that Rick Warren is not characterized commonly across the body of Christ and around the world in terms of his position on gay marriage or not, and that's kind of where you guys have been focusing. He's seen much more as someone who helps the poor, who wants to change the world. His peace contract with the world is a desire to see world peace and harmony, minister to the poor, dealing with HIV/AIDS-positive people in a loving way no matter what country they come from. So, I resent the fact...

FLUNDER: But his loving doesn't extend to...

MARTIN: I'm sorry, Bishop Flunder. Let Bishop Jackson finish his point, then I'll come straight to you.

JACKSON: I'm almost finished. I resent the fact that, because he doesn't agree with your narrow point of view, that all of a sudden he's less than a Christian. He's polarizing. It's like he's riding a white cape, and he's from the KKK or wearing white robe or something, and I think that's just not the way the world sees him in balance in America. And this argument advances your case.

MARTIN: Bishop Flunder, if I could get a final thought from you, and I'd particularly like to know where you feel - where do you go from here? On something which matters to you so deep, how do you go forward from this?

FLUNDER: Well, I think it's also important that I respond back and say that as a same-gender-loving person, we are not only concerned with the issues of same-gender-loving people. Rick Warren is not the only person who reaches out to the world and deals with issues of human rights across several lines and in several ways. He's also not the only person who is known to do that kind of work. But very specifically, with this particular issue, I think what we have to continue to do is hold our new administration accountable to the promises and commitments that were made to us as same-gender-loving people and not have our issues diminished because we raised them as issues.

MARTIN: Sorry, Bishop, we have to leave it there. And I'm sure we will return to this conversation, and I hope you all will join us for that. Bishop Yvette Flunder is the leader of Refuge Ministries in San Francisco, California. She joined us on the phone from San Rafael. Harry Knox is the faith and religion director at the Human Rights Campaign. He was here with me in Washington. And Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. is the senior pastor of the Hope Christian Church in the Washington D.C. area. He was here with me in the studio also. I thank you all so much for joining us, and I hope you all have happy holidays.

KNOX: Thank you.

FLUNDER: Thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you.

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