Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY12:03p.m. EST January 18, 2013
Choosing clergy to speak at the Inaugural National Prayer Service is complicated and controversial now that their views views on gay rights and same sex marriage get critical attention
Clergy chosen for to speak at the National Prayer Service lean to the liberal denominations
The Presidential Inaugural Committee is wary of releasing the names in advance after an earlier embarrassment
The service will be at the Episcopal cathedral that recently announced it would host same-sex weddings
Monday, President Obama is center stage. Tuesday, it's God.
Obama will be at the Washington National Cathedral as a parade of clergy and religious leaders offer prayers and blessings for the president and the nation.
The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a United Methodist pastor known for his skilled preaching and centrist views, will deliver the sermon Tuesday at the Inaugural National Prayer Service at Washington National Cathedral.
Hamilton is founding pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, which began in a funeral home but has grown to 16,000 members - the largest church in the denomination.
The National Prayer Service is an important tradition in the United States," Hamilton said in a statement released Friday. "I am honored and humbled to have been asked to deliver the message for this service as President Obama and Vice President Biden begin their second term."
Naming the speakers for the Inaugural National Prayer Service has become a political and religious hot potato.
Now, a speaker's views on gay rights and same sex marriage gets critical attention. So does the diversity -- or lack of diversity -- among the denominations represented on the program.
The initial choice for the benediction prayer at Monday's swearing-in ceremony, Rev. Louie Giglio, was quickly withdrawn after his views opposing same-sex marriage drew criticism. He's been replaced by Rev. Luis Leon, pastor of the church across from the White House, where presidents have worshiped for generations.
Tuesday's event will include religiously liberal clergy. The nation's leaders, their families and the global television audience will be welcomed to the cathedral by the Episcopal Bishop of Washington Mariann Budde and Dean of the Cathedral, The Very Rev. Gary Hall -- who announced earlier this week that the cathedral will now host same-sex marriage blessing ceremonies. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the U.S. denomination's first female presiding bishop who backed the acceptance of gay clergy in the denomination, will also have a role.
Conservative evangelicals and traditionalist denominational leaders may be scarce
In 2009, The sermon was given by Rev. Rev. Sharon Watkins, head of the tiny Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The Washington Times logged four Episcopalians, three Jews, and other liberal mainline Protestants such as United Methodists, but no Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Buddhists, Assemblies of God (or other Pentecostal churches) clergy with a role in the program. The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington had a representative.
Conservative evangelicals, angered by Giglio's withdrawal say this is poor sign for the future. Rev. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, blogged that any preacher who stands for "historic, biblical Christianity" is now unwelcome in the public square.
Nonsense, says constitutional historian R.B. Bernstein, who teaches law at New York Law School.
"There's a lot of yelling and screaming about Obama and religion but a lot of it is hypocritical with religious voices saying their liberty is under attack while they criticize others for not being sufficiently devout," says Bernstein.
Hamilton was baptized Catholic, converted to Pentecostalism as a teenager and attended Oral Roberts University. He later joined the United Methodist Church. He has authored 13 books, including Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White. The title hints at Hamilton's approach to controversial topics, including homosexuality, an issue that has divided his denomination and had shaken up Obama's inaugural program.