Gene Robinson received quite a surprise this Monday, April 14, when President Barack Obama unexpectedly tapped the former first openly gay Episcopal bishop to lead the closing prayer at the White House Easter celebration.
UPI reports that 150 Christian leaders were in attendance at the Fifth Annual Easter Prayer Breakfast, which marks the beginning of Holy Week at the White House, a tradition started by the Obama Administration in 2010. (They will also host a Passover Seder at the White House on Tuesday).
"I want to thank you for your ministries, for your good works, for the marching you do for justice, and dignity and inclusion," Obama told the gathered leaders, before closing with the facetious prayer, "Lord fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff and nudge me when I’ve said enough."
Pastor Joel Hunter offered the opening prayer, Reverend Otis Moss delivered the sermon and then Christian songwriter Carlos Whittaker performed. Then Obama called upon Robinson to speak.
Although the speech wasn’t taped, Robinson shared his thoughts later with the Talking Points Memo.
"I did what I always kind of do in prayer, which is to ask God’s blessing on all of God’s children, worldwide," he said. "I asked a special blessing on this nation and our President, and also, since you mentioned Pope Francis, I always pray for the poor, and the oppressed, and the marginalized. I think God cares especially about them."
Wagner asked him, "How optimistic are you that the Catholic Church -- and broadly the Christian Church in general- --is getting closer to opening its doors truly and meaningfully to the LGBT community?"
Robinson replied, "I think it’s taken on an air of inevitability. We see such change in the culture. President Obama’s evolution on this topic is really a reflection of what has happened all across the nation, across every demographic group, and certainly among young people. They just don’t know what the big deal is."
He added, "And I think we will see even the more conservative religious groups understand that the love that two people share, one for another, is of God. And the gender of those people is not the important thing, it’s the love and the relationship."
Robinson, who retired as the bishop of Diocese of New Hampshire in 2013, is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Caught by surprise, he tweeted a photo of the President with the tagline "OMG" via his Twitter account.