Jeff Walton is Communications Manager for the Institute on Religion & Democracy and directs the Anglican program. He graduated in 2001 from Seattle Pacific University and is a member of Restoration Anglican Church in Arlington, VA.
Following ABC News’ report last week that Evangelical Pastor Louis Giglio had withdrawn from the inaugural ceremony, CNN has reported that the Rev. Luis León of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square will be offering the benediction. León previously offered an opening prayer at the 2005 inauguration of President George W. Bush.
The first family occasionally worships at St. John’s, which is located directly across from the White House and is nicknamed “the church of the presidents.”
The selection of the Cuban-born Episcopal priest should also satisfy homosexual activists upset over the initial choice of the Evangelical Giglio. While the Atlanta-based founder of the anti-trafficking Passion movement was criticized for a 1995 sermon in which he referenced scripture verses naming homosexual practices as sinful, León has a record of advocating on behalf of homosexual causes.
In 2009, León served as one of five clergy spokespersons as well as on the steering committee of D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality, a campaign that supported the ultimately successful effort to recognize same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia in 2010.
Quoting from the book of Galatians that “We are all one in Christ Jesus,” León said that he was grateful for the diversity of the clergy group endorsing the gay marriage declaration. “Here we stand, offering ourselves as a photograph of God’s rich creation.”
León was joined in signing the declaration by Washington, D.C.’s then-Episcopal Bishop, John Bryson Chane, retired Episcopal Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon and several Episcopal parish priests, including National Cathedral officials.
“In the Anglican Communion we are so divided on human sexuality issues, that can’t stop us from standing up for what we think is right and just,” León responded to a question at the 2009 clergy press conference. “I can’t speak for the Episcopal Church, only for myself. I fully believe in marriage equality.”
While the naming of León will probably placate homosexual activists, it also denies President Obama the ability to highlight vibrant anti-trafficking efforts that made Giglio initially appealing to the inaugural committee. Unlike Giglio’s most recent conference focused on ending human bondage, which drew a reported 60,000 young adults to the Georgia Dome, León’s more staid Episcopal parish draws about 400 on a Sunday.
IRD Board Chair Janice Shaw Crouse commented on the Louis Giglio controversy yesterday and can be viewed by clicking here.
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