Gay Episcopal Bishop Leads Prayer at White House Easter Event

Monday, 14 Apr 2014 02:42 PM

By Sharon Churcher

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The Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, the Right Rev. Gene Robinson, said he was astounded to be selected to give the closing prayer Monday at the annual White House Easter Prayer Breakfast.

Robinson tweeted that he had no idea until the very last minute that President Barack Obama was going to choose him for the honor.

"POTUS 'preaches' at the Easter prayer breakfast," he said in the post, which he accompanied with a photo of the president addressing 150 of his fellow Christian leaders at the event.

Striking a somber note, Obama reflected on the shootings this weekend at a Jewish community center and senior living facility that left three people dead outside Kansas City.

"Then, out of the blue," the bishop continued, he "asks ME to close with prayer. OMG! " He stressed in a separate tweet that his words were "totally off the cuff! OMG!"

The 66-year-old bishop, who retired from his New Hampshire diocese in 2013 and now works on faith and gay rights issues for the Washington Center for American Progress, posted a second photo showing violinists playing at the breakfast.

"Strings greet us here at White House for Easter Breakfast with POTUS," he tweeted.

The news site Getty Images posted a photo showing the bishop apparently sharing a joke with Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president, as another controversial guest, the Rev. Al Sharpton, looks on.

Robinson has made waves by admitting that, like Obama, he originally thought marriage should be between only a man and a woman.

Though he knew he was gay, he has said he began dating his future wife, Isabella "Boo" McDaniel, when he was a University of Vermont chaplain . About "a month into their relationship," he told her about his sexuality.

They married in 1972 and had two children.

When they eventually divorced, he said it was because Isabella met someone else. He subsequently began an openly gay relationship with a Peace Corps worker, Mark Andrew, who became his legal partner in June 2008 in a private civil union ceremony.

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