(Photo: REUTERS/Mike Theiler)
An Episcopal pastor from a church not far from the White House has been chosen to replace evangelical Christian pastor Louie Giglio of Passion City Church to perform the official benediction at President Barack Obama's public inauguration on Jan. 21.
The Rev. Dr. Luis León has led Saint John's Church in Washington, D.C. since 1995, and was invited last week to deliver the benediction, CNN reported. He also delivered the invocation at George W. Bush's second inauguration in 2005.
"You don't get used to this. I'm just as nervous now as I was the first time," León said about being chosen. "From the moment someone asks you to do that, your wheels are spinning with what to say. So my wheels were spinning now."
"I think when we're asking a blessing for this country," the Episcopal pastor added. "I think we're asking God to lift us up, to lift up what's good in us. 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."
Saint John's Church's is gay-affirming and blesses gay and lesbian unions, and has been attended both by President Obama and former President George W. Bush. After Passion City Church leader Louie Giglio decided to decline the invitation to lead the benediction due to protests against an anti-homosexuality sermon he preached 20 years ago, many had predicted that the minister chosen to replace him would be gay-affirming.
"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," the White House said after Giglio stepped down.
Giglio was chosen to perform the benediction largely for his global anti-slavery campaign, which drew strong support from President Obama, but explained that he did not want to stir negative emotions at a time when the country needs healing, not division.
"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," Giglio explained in a letter sent to the White House on Jan. 10. "Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ."
Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of murdered civil rights leader Medgar Evers, will deliver the invocation on Tuesday, even though she is not a member of the clergy. The Presidential Inaugural Committee has also announced that it will release on Friday the names of clergy and religious leaders who will be giving prayers at the National Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral on Tuesday, Jan. 22.