Rick Warren, the popular evangelical minister whose selection as inaugural pastor has outraged liberals, will be a keynote speaker at a Martin Luther King commemorative service the day before the inauguration.
Warren, pastor of the 22,000-member Saddleback Church, will be speaking during a Jan. 19 service at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta as part of the official program of the 10-day King Center's Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, which begins on Jan. 10, according to a report in the Orange County Register.
Phil Munsey, pastor of Life Church in Mission Viejo, which has a mixed-race congregation, told the Register that he is not surprised with Warren's selection.
“I think it's unique given the backdrop of demographics of Orange County being so low for the African American community,” said Munsey. “To have an Orange County minister participating is an honor. Rick Warren's influence in the nation is intriguing. Even though it appears he's offended the liberals in his statement, Christians have to hold on to their belief system without being offensive. The controversy is countered by Warren's offer to participate in the MLK event. It shows the seeds Rick Warren has sewn towards reconciliation to bring people together. It's hard to do that in a divided nation.”
Warren has come under heavy fire from gay rights activists outraged that President-elect Barack Obama chose him to deliver his inaugural invocation. But he is also drawing criticism from fellow evangelicals concerned that giving such a blessing contradicts Warren’s pro-life principles. Conservative and evangelical blogs have received thousands of emails from distressed Christians who fear that Warren is veering too far left.
Warren responded to both sides in a letter he released last week.
“I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me, with whom he doesn’t agree on every issue, to offer the invocation at his historic inaugural.”
Warren, who was selected in part by Obama based on his extensive missionary work with sufferers of HIV/AIDS in Africa, was highly visible during the past campaign and in his association with candidates. Warren hosted Obama and Arizona Sen. John McCain at Saddleback during the campaign for a discussion of social issues.
Warren was recently in Washington, D.C., presenting President George W. Bush with a medal for his work to combat global HIV/AIDS.
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