Bishop Chane expresses concern over Warren selection

From Bishop John Bryson Chane:

I am profoundly disappointed by President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to invite Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church to offer the invocation at his inauguration. The president-elect has bestowed a great honor on a man whose recent comments suggest he is both homophobic, xenophobic, and willing to use the machinery of the state to enforce his prejudices—even going so far as to support the assassination of foreign leaders.

In his home state of California, Mr. Warren’s campaigned aggressively to deny gay and lesbian couples equal rights under the law, relying on arguments that are both morally offensive and theologically crude. Christian leaders differ passionately with one another over the morality of same-sex relationships, but only the most extreme liken the loving, lifelong partnerships of their fellow citizens to incest and pedophilia, as Mr. Warren has done. The president-elect’s willingness to associate himself with a man who espouses these views as a means of reaching out to religious conservatives suggests a willingness to use the aspirations of gay and lesbian Americans as bargaining chips, and I find this deeply troubling.

Mr. Warren has been rightly praised for his efforts to deepen the engagement of evangelical Christians with impoverished Africans. He has been justifiably lauded for putting the AIDS epidemic and global warming on the political agenda of the Christian right. Yet extravagant compassion toward some of God’s people does not justify the repression of others. Jesus came to save all of humankind, and as Archbishop Desmond Tutu has pointed out, “All means all.” But rather than embrace the wisdom of Archbishop Tutu, Mr. Warren has allied himself with men such as Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda who seek to “purify” the Anglican Communion, of which my Church is a member, by driving out gay and lesbian Christians and their supporters.

In choosing Mr. Warren, the president-elect has sent a distressing message internationally as well. In a recent television interview, Mr. Warren voiced his support for the assassination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These bizarre and regrettable remarks come at a time when much of the Muslim world already fears a Christian crusade against Islamic countries. Imagine our justifiable outrage if an Iranian cleric who advocated the assassination of President Bush had been selected to offer prayers when Ahmadinejad was sworn in.

I have worked with former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami to improve the relationship between our two countries as hawkish members of the Bush administration pushed for another war. He has spoken at the National Cathedral, which will host the president-elect’s inaugural prayer service, and I have visited with him several times in Iran and elsewhere. Iranian clerics are intensely interested in the religious attitudes of America’s leaders. In choosing Mr. Warren to offer the invocation at his inauguration, the president-elect has sent the chilling, and, I feel certain, unintended message that he is comfortable with Christians who can justify lethal violence against Muslims.

I understand that in selecting Mr. Warren, Mr. Obama is signaling a willingness to work with both sides in our country’s culture wars. I appreciate that there is political advantage in elevating the relatively moderate Mr. Warren above some of his brethren on the Religious Right. But in honoring Mr. Warren, the president-elect confers legitimacy on attitudes that are deeply contrary to the all-inclusive love of God. He is courting the powerful at the expense of the marginalized, and in doing so, he stands the Gospel on its head.

The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane
Eighth Bishop of Washington

Comments (13)

I would like to think I would have selected him myself if I were the President elect, but the fact remains that Rick "Warmonger" Warren is, frankly, the best of a bad bunch.

Obama knew exactly what he was doing in selecting Warren - stabbing every one of his Gay & Lesbian voters in the back. He gains no support this way, he only loses it. This isn't change anyone can believe in.

For a news conference today, video of Obama defending the Rick pick.


Monday, December 15, 2008 06:05pm EST / Posted by Dan McSwain
Open for Questions: Response

We've launched several features recently that are opening up the two-way dialogue between the Transition team and the community.
The next Open for Questions feature will go live in the coming days.

Just a reminder folks: we require commenters to sign their posts with their full names, just like old-fashioned letters to the editor.

Hmmmm, it seems that many of my friends who voted for Obama are upset because, although checking their mailboxes daily, they still have not received their "Obama Prize".

Keep Checking. You never know.

Oh, but everyone I know has received the Obama Prize...who would have guessed in my lifetime that our efforts in the 60´s would finally be realized so early in the new Century...yes, it´s true, the great prize is that we are ALL going to face the fact that discrimination, persecution and abuse from
bigots is nearly dead, true there is more to be done but we´ll keep our eye on the prize.

Mil Gracias to God and everyone human spirit who wishes their brothers and sisters equality, prosperity and good health...that would include spiritual good health, emotional health and physical!

We will over-come at ALL levels of Churchlife and Everyday can count on it.

Having slept on it for a couple of nights, I find myself even more disappointed in this selection than I was originally. Rick Warren has made common cause with those attempting to break up the Episcopal Church, take its property and assume its place within the Anglican Communion. He gave a major address at Bishop Bob Duncan's Hope and Future Conference in Pittsburgh in 2005 where bishops from other countries ordained priests and deacons to begin forming alternative Anglican Churches within the U. S. He publicly endorsed Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda's boycott of the Lambeth Conference, saying Orombi and his bishops were right to avoid American bishops who voted to consecrate Gene Robinson. It is hard for me to imagine that a religious leader who had taken similar actions against the Catholic Church or the Southern Baptist Convention would be given this honor. But there are so few Episcopalians that you can insult us without fear of political consequences. And then you can show up at our Cathedral the next day to hold your inaugural prayer service, and count on us being too polite to express our displeasure. I'd still vote for Barack Obama (and I am truly delighted that he chose one of my wife's oldest friends to read her poetry at this inauguration) but I now have a lot better sense of how little regard he has for my Church.

As a gay Episcopalian I too have have slept on this, hoping to find it less offensive, but it gets worse. I dig for some redeeming value in Pastor Warren's church, finding only that it welcomes gays as visitors to be cured, not as members. This contrary to where the Episcopal Church is headed. Unfortunately Bishop Chane's otherwise wonderful letter gave Obama an "out" recognizing the political advantage and using the phrase "relatively moderate" which some news folks (see americablog) have jumped on.

As a gay man, I see nothing nothing moderate about Pastor Warren. I also find nothing pastoral toward LGBT people about him.

After all the anticipation of an inauguration in which I could revel, I feel I have been pushed off another cliff.

Neil Houghton, Mendon NY

Posted last night, without my full moniker - that's what I get for speed-reading the policies...

I wonder what the good Bishop’s friend, Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, thinks about gay and lesbian “rights”...somehow I don’t think they would be in agreement about this issue. Obama’s choice was a politically savvy one. Without the support of at least a portion of American Evangelicals, Obama could not have won the election.
On another point, shouldn’t Mr. Warren’s credits include leading many people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ? Maybe the Bishop forgot about that part.
Gillian Forrest

I agree with Bishop Chane. President-elect Obama has made a sad, cold step of division not of inclusion.

Obama's selection of this phobic pastor sends a clear message to our multi-religious country, that his selection of Rev Warren, is an affirmation of bigotry and myopic phobias about the great religions of the world along with the civil rights of all Americans.

For a man of vision Obama has now shown us how blind he can be.

As a 58 year old life-long Episcopalian, I am proud that Bishop Chane has stepped up to the plate in defense of human and civil rights for all persons.

He has it exactly correct: Talk to Mr. Warren. Work with him. Don't give Warren a place of honor at the inauguration.

Rick Warren's point, as I read it, is that the same logic behind today's arguments in favor of gay marriage can also be used in favor of polyamorous marriages, incestuous marriages, and even marriages between adults and children. If the sole necessary prerequisite to marriage is that the individuals involved be in a loving, committed relationship and id the individuals are willing to make that a life-long commitment, on what basis do we permit same sex marriage and still exclude polyamorous, incestuous, or even paedophilic marriages? It is not that Warren is saying that gay marriage and incest are morally equivalent, but rather he is saying that "loving and committed" as a standard of eligibility for marriage excludes neither incest nor paedophilia.

I suggest that Rick Warren's great offense to many Obama supporters is that he actively supported and campaigned for California Proposition 8. It is for this that the Bishop of Washington labels Warren, "homophobic," and accuses him of relying on arguments that are, "morally offensive and theologically crude."

Well, I find myself in step with Rick Warren's thinking on this issue. And when the bishop of Washington accuses Rick Warren of being homophobic and relying on morally offensive and theologically crude arguments, he levels the same charge at the Pope and all Roman Catholic bishops and cardinals, all Eastern Orthodox metropolitans, thousands of Protetant clergy around the world, and hundreds of millions of professed Christians such as myself.

For some time I have been in prayer and discernment about whether to remain an Episcopalian. Bishop Chane's statement has been helpful to me in that it candidly articulates what the leaders of TEC really think of Christians who believe that traditional teachings about sex and marriage should be upheld by the church. I had hoped the Holy Spirit would by the end of this year lead me to a place where my path ahead would be clear. He has. This statement has crystallized things for me. I have written my rector and resigned from my parish and from the Episcopal Church. I will be renouncing my vows as an Anglican Dominican and am making arrangements to be received into the Roman Catholic Church in the very near future.

May God richly bless all of you who remain in TEC. I will pray that it please our Lord that he grant you abundant peace and prosperity.

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