Washington, D.C. — A homosexual-affirming Episcopalian priest of one of the most historic churches in the nation has been chosen to replace Pastor Louie Giglio to deliver the benediction at the upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama.
Luis Leon has served as the priest of St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C. since 1995, where he also founded the Washington Interfaith Network. St. John’s Church, dubbed the “church of the presidents,” has hosted every president since James Madison, including Barack Obama, who has visited several times. Founded in 1815, the church building sits across the street from the White House in Lafayette Square.
Leon, who also delivered prayers at the inauguration of George W. Bush in 2005, confirmed to reporters that the Presidential Inaugural Committee invited him to replace Giglio at Monday’s ceremony.
“I don’t mind being in the bullpen; relievers are very important,” he said.
He stated that one of the focuses of his appearance at the inauguration is to speak about the “goodness” of people.
“I think when we’re asking a blessing for this country, we’re asking for God to lift us up, to lift up what’s good in us,” Leon explained. “To remind us of what’s good in us, and remind us to do what’s proper, what’s the good, the right thing for the country.”
The Episcopalian denomination, which Leon is a part of, generally approves of homosexual relationships and elects homosexual bishops to preside over their parishes. Last July, Episcopalians voted at their annual convention to “bless” same-sex ceremonies.
While Pastor Louie Giglio of Passion City Church in Roswell, Georgia, who was originally chosen to give the benediction at Monday’s inauguration, once preached that he believes the Bible clearly prohibits homosexual behavior, and that Christ came to set men free from sin, he says he has not spoken on the matter in some time.
As previously reported, Giglio decided to withdraw from the event after being criticized by homosexual advocates for a sermon he had delivered in the 1990′s in which he pointed to Scriptures that speak against homosexual behavior. Giglio had initially accepted the invitation, but bowed out because he feared that his appearance at the inauguration would turn into an argument over homosexuality — which he asserts is not the focus of his ministry.
“Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the Inauguration,” he wrote. “Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. … Neither I, nor our team, feel it best serves the core message and goals we are seeking to accomplish to be in a fight on an issue not of our choosing, thus I respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President’s invitation.”
Following his withdrawal, the Presidential Inaugural Committee vowed to select a homosexual-affirming replacement.
“We were not aware of Pastor Giglio’s past comments at the time of his selection, and they don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural. Pastor Giglio was asked to deliver the benediction in large part for his leadership in combating human trafficking around the world,” the Committee wrote in a statement issued on January 10th. “As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.”