No 'Poster Boy'
Months after his invocation at President Obama's inauguration enraged same-sex-marriage advocates, Rick Warren found himself facing criticism from same-sex-marriage opponents. The California megachurch pastor incited some conservatives' fury in April after he seemed to distance himself from California's ban on the marriages.
Warren told Larry King on CNN, "During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never—never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Proposition 8 was going."
But just before the November election, he appeared in a video newsletter to his church stating, "If you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition 8."
Warren attempted to clarify his remarks to Christianity Today by distinguishing between endorsing the Proposition 8 campaign and speaking to his Saddleback congregation.
"It was a pastor talking to his own people. I've never said anything about it since," he told ct. "I don't know how you take one video newsletter to your own church and turn that into, all of a sudden, I'm the poster boy for anti-gay marriage."
Many conservative evangelicals lashed out over Warren's remarks, believing he was backpedalling from his earlier stance.
"What I read disturbed me," said Frank Page, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. "It has caused him a great deal of loss of respect from conservative evangelical leaders."
After his ct interview, Warren's spokesperson issued a statement that the pastor "has remained committed to the biblical definition of marriage as between one man and one woman."
When King asked Warren whether he would comment on Iowa legalizing same-sex marriage, Warren said it wasn't on his agenda.
"Count me as an admirer of Rick Warren; I believe he is seeking primarily to preserve his ministry's power to do good in the world," said Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage. "But it's a very sad state of affairs that a Christian minister could feel he has to downplay marriage to make his voice heard on other important issues."
During the King interview, Warren also referenced a letter of apology that he had sent to gay leaders. "However, that mea culpa was not with respect to his statements or position on Proposition 8 nor the biblical worldview on marriage," said his spokeswoman, Kristin Cole. "Rather, he apologized for his comments in an earlier Beliefnet interview … during which he unintentionally and regrettably gave the impression that consensual adult same-sex relationships were equivalent to incest or pedophilia."
As states begin to legalize gay marriage, pastors will increasingly be forced to confront the issue, said Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
"Rick's predicament is the same as someone who is trying simultaneously to avoid this issue and speak to it when he has to," Mohler said. "The fact is, no answer is an answer."
Although many reporters and scholars have compared Warren with Billy Graham, Mohler believes that today's landscape looks much different from that of 30 years ago, making comparisons with the evangelist difficult.
"Anyone today who wishes to speak in public is going to have to give answers that will be considered far more divisive and controversial," Mohler said. "A public role becomes more problematic in a postmodern America, where delivering an invocation is a highly ideological act."
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Christianity Today has a special section on Rick Warren.