(CNN) - High-profile pastor Rick Warren has called off plans for a presidential forum that he said was scheduled to include both major party candidates, but there are conflicting accounts about why the event was canceled.
Warren told the Orange County Register that he was nixing his "civil forum" because of the toxic political climate.FULL STORY
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/15/art.bowarrenhigh0115.gi.jpg caption="Pastor Rick Warren praised President-elect Obama's decision to invite an openly gay bishop to participate in inauguration festivities."]
(CNN) – Rick Warren offered an olive branch to another minister delivering an inaugural invocation — an openly gay Episcopal bishop who had been critical of the evangelical pastor over his support for California’s Proposition 8.
The California minister praised President-elect Obama’s selection of Eugene V. Robinson to deliver the invocation at the kickoff inaugural event.
Obama “has again demonstrated his genuine commitment to bringing all Americans of goodwill together in search of common ground," Warren said in a statement released Wednesday. "I applaud his desire to be the president of every citizen.”
Warren, who is delivering the invocation at the Tuesday swearing-in ceremony, drew fire from some Obama supporters over his opposition to same sex marriage and abortion rights.
Robinson had called Warren’s inclusion “really, really unfortunate” because of his support for Proposition 8, which barred same-sex marriage.
“It's about this particular venue and the role that he has in praying for all of America, and I'm just not sure he'd pray to God the same way I would,” Robinson told Beliefnet last month.
“…This particular choice [of Warren] is not about having everyone at the table for a discussion or some sort of general forum. Every choice related to who does what at the inauguration is highly symbolic, and I think the transition team failed to ask the question of what, symbolically, this might say to some of our citizens.”
Robinson said at the time his disappointment would not affect his plans to attend President-elect Obama’s inauguration.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/17/art.warren1.gi.jpg caption="Warren is founder of the Saddleback Church."](CNN) - Prominent liberal groups and gay rights proponents criticized President-elect Barack Obama Wednesday for choosing evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration next month.
Warren, one of the most powerful religious leaders in the nation, has championed issues such as calling for the reduction of global poverty, human rights abuses, and the AIDS epidemic.
But the founder of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, has also adhered to socially conservative stances - including his opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights that puts him at odds with many in the Democratic Party, especially the party's most liberal wing.
"[It's] shrewd politics, but if anyone is under any illusion that Obama is interested in advancing gay equality, they should probably sober up now," Andrew Sullivan wrote on the Atlantic Web site Wednesday.
People for the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert told CNN she is "deeply disappointed" with the choice of Warren, and said the powerful platform at the inauguration should instead have been given to someone who is "consistent mainstream American values.
"There is no substantive difference between Rick Warren and James Dobson," Kolbert said. "The only difference is tone. His tone is moderate, but his ideas are radical."
Dobson, a social conservative leader, is founder and chairman of Focus on the Family.
Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Obama, defended the choice of Warren, saying, "This is going to be the most inclusive, open, accessible inauguration in American history."
"The president-elect certainly disagrees with him on [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] issues. But it has always been his goal to find common ground with people with whom you may disagree on some issues."
Douglass also noted Obama and Warren agree on several issues including advocating on behalf of the poor and the disadvantaged, and people who suffer from HIV/AIDS.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/17/art.warren.gi.jpg caption="Rick Warren hosted a presidential forum in August."](CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony will feature big names like minister Rick Warren and legendary singer Aretha Franklin, the Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced Wednesday.
Warren, the prominent evangelical and founder of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, will deliver the ceremony's invocation. The minister hosted a presidential forum at his church last summer that challenged both Obama and Arizona Sen. John McCain on a host of faith-related issues. Warren did not endorse either presidential candidate.
His public support for California's Proposition 8 - the measure that successfully passed and called for outlawing gay marriage in the state - sparked the ire of many gay rights proponents, who seized on a comment in an October newsletter to his congregation: "This is not a political issue - it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about."
But Warren has long sought to broaden the focus of the evangelical agenda to include issues like the reduction of global poverty, human rights abuses, and the AIDS epidemic.
Also included in the inaugural program are cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the United States Marine Band, and other performers.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/08/14/warren.forum/art.warren.sitroom%20copy.jpg caption= "The Rev. Rick Warren appears on The Situation Room Thursday"]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Rev. Rick Warren said Thursday that his upcoming forum with Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama will be aimed at asking them tough "heartland questions."
The author of the best-selling book "The Purpose-Driven Life" is to interview McCain and Obama on Saturday.
The candidates will appear together at Warren's 20,000-member Saddleback mega-church in southern California.
"Well, I'm a pastor, not a pundit," he told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux on Thursday's "Situation Room." "One of the things we're going to do is I'm going to ask identical questions to both candidates, which will be different.
"I'm not going to play 'gotcha' with one candidate and not with the other. This way, it will be totally fair. You compare apples to apples," he added.