The first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church will give the opening prayer at Sunday's kickoff inaugural event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, according to the Obama inaugural committee.
Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who became the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop in 2003, will deliver the invocation for the kickoff event. Both President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden will be attending.
Click play for more insight on Obama's pastor selections from CBN News Sr. National Reporter David Brody.
Obama drew criticism from the gay community last month when he selected Saddleback pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration.
Robinson told the Concord Monitor that Obama's choice of Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration was "like a slap in the face."
Robinson said he doesn't believe Obama invited him in response to the Warren criticism, but Robinson's inclusion won't go unnoticed by the gay and lesbian community.
"It's important for any minority to see themselves represented in some way," Robinson told the newspaper.
"Whether it be a racial minority, an ethnic minority, or in our case, a sexual minority," he said. "Just seeing someone like you up front matters."
A spokesman for the inaugural committee said Robinson was invited because he had offered his advice to Obama during the campaign and because of his church work.
When asked whether Robinson was included to calm the Warren complaints, he said Robinson is "an important figure in the religious community. We are excited that he will be involved."
Bible Won't Be Used
Robinson, 61, said he doesn't yet know what he'll say during the prayer, but he knows he won't use a Bible.
"While that is a holy and sacred text to me, it is not for many Americans," Robinson said. "I will be careful not to be especially Christian in my prayer. This is a prayer for the whole nation."
Robinson said his prayer will be reflective of the times.
"I think these are sober and difficult times that we are facing," he said. "It won't be a happy, clappy prayer."
Robinson's consecration five years ago has divided the Episcopal Church in the United States and abroad. Last year, he entered into a civil union with his gay partner.
In December, theological conservatives upset by liberal views of U.S. Episcopalians and Canadian Anglicans formed their own North American church.
Another Historic First
Also, Rev. Sharon Watkins, the leader of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), will become the first woman to give the sermon at the National Prayer Service held Jan. 21 at the National Cathedral in Washington.
Watkins is the first woman to hold the position of president and general minister in the denomination.
Sources: Concord Monitor, The Christian Post