September 19, 2020

The Lessons of Two Prayers: Warren and Robinson

UPDATE: Lauren Green on the two prayers.

Bishop Gene Robinson- who needs no introduction, does he?- prayed at an Inaugural event over the weekend.

Bishop Robinson got the gig not because he is a spiritual leader or is looked up to by Christians, but because he is the first openly gay bishop in the ECUSA. He has become the lightning rod that has split worldwide Anglicanism. He has a way of turning up wherever the issue of gay marriage is on the agenda. He was hanging around the media rooms at the Lambeth Conference, just in case anyone wanted his opinion. And when Rick Warren was asked to pray at the Inauguration, Bishop Robinson’s angry friends- offended that Warren was a supporter of Prop 8 in California defining marriage traditionally in that state- got him the job of praying at this event.

The Bishop didn’t miss a beat in saying he was appalled by the distinctively Christian prayers that had dominated Inaugurations in the past, and he would not pray in the name of Jesus.

So here’s the text of Bishop Robinson’s prayer.

And here he is on Youtube.

If you watched today’s ceremony, you heard Pastor Rick Warren’s prayer. Here’s the text to it, and here’s Pastor Rick on Youtube.

If you are not a Christian, and you are wondering what the heck is going on within Christianity these days, I’d recommend these two prayers for your study.

Both have many good statements and thoughts, but a prayer is a very important, unique kind of speech in our faith. You can learn a lot listening to the prayer, to the statements about the difference God makes, the ideas about God that are at work and the emotions expressed toward God and about God.

Evangelicalism, for all its problems, and all its Warren-influenced struggles with relevance, still has something powerful to say to the world about God, and about the one through whom we know who is the God we are talking about.

You can’t talk reasonably and genuinely about a God of many understandings. Not with actual believers in Jesus, Yahweh, Allah and Buddah around. You might as well pray to the cat. (It probably would be better to pray to the cat.) But you can talk about the God who created, the God who reigns and the God we know as we know and believe Jesus.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these two prayers and what they teach us.


  1. My point was that Paul himself was once mis-guided. And maybe because he remembers that fact, he has an understanding that God is working in everybody’s life; the details may differ but that fact remains the same.

    Exactly. Which is one of many reasons that I wish people would look more closely at the complete text of Gene Robinson’s prayer. There’s a lot of good stuff there, especially in the section where he prayed for the Obamas.

  2. Well, I guess the real question is, who is Robinson praying to? I have a hard time figuring it out based on his use of the god of many understandings and his later plea to that god to “Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.”
    I am not questioning his salvation, just his logic and perhaps his theology. Isn’t this an insult to the God of Abraham,Isaac and Jacob? In light of passages like Deuteronomy 32:15-16 is it wise for a prayer offered to the One and Only God of the Universe that Robinson would claim to be referring to by the phrase god of many understandings need to appeal to the judgment of other Gods?
    I simply think what Robinson is doing is not healthy or Biblical. It doesn’t encourage people to seek the God who is; it allows them to continue with whatever the god of their many understandings is understood to be.

  3. @ Jeff M: I think the only person who can answer those questions is Robinson himself. He gave an interesting interview that was published on Beliefnet earlier this week.

    I’m sure Robinson and I disagree on many things, but that said, I was very pleasantly surprised by his answers regarding a number of things about his now-infamous prayer. I honestly believe that lots of people – and I’m including myself here – tend to have knee-jerk reactions to him. For myself, I *know* that my own tendency to judge him as “wrong” has led to my not being willing to listen to him.

    And then, amid all the tensions at the Lambeth Conference last summer, I saw some interviews with him that surprised me – jolted me, really. Because he was about 180 degrees away from being prejudiced toward those who opposed him there.

    And that’s all made me want to stop and take a 2nd look at what he says. That, in turn, has led to repentance for my own prejudices, and an awareness that he has some very worthwhile things to say that *need to be listened to by people on all sides of the debate re. homosexuality, the ECUSA, splits in Anglicanism, and much more. *All* of the movers and shakers in this have good points. Now if only they could start talking with (rather than at) each other, the current deadlock might be a little more resolvable, and far less bitter.

    That’s my personal take, at least… am not intending to pass judgment on anyone commenting here, or elsewhere, or on anyone in the Anglican communion. (Fwiw, I’m not Anglican/Episcopal myself, so I don’t have any horses in this race. ;))

  4. Michael the little boot says

    “Real tolerance: Let each person pray to the God they believe in, and don’t try to throw a blanket over everyone.”

    I wonder, if this is “real” tolerance, why we pray at public events at all. Going by your definition, we can never hope to have a public prayer without it being a public blanketing. We must return to the moment of silence – unless we’re in church where everyone is sure they believe in the same God – if we go by the parameters for “real” tolerance you put forth above.

    Apologies if what I said is in the comments somewhere else. Lots of comments to go through!

  5. *I* didn’t “put them forth. That’s a quote from Robinson, not me. It does not speeak for me, but for him.

    Cool? 😉

    And actually, I think a moment of silence is a pretty good idea, compared to the ruckus that public prayers seem to engender…

  6. Ah, forgot: listening – *really* listening – to someone is a lot different than agreeing wit5h everything they say. Am sure Robinson and I disagree on many things, but that doesn’t mean I have the “right” to ignore him, let alone belittle him – or anyone else. (You, too.)

  7. Frankly, both prayers seemed a little preachy in their delivery and more like speeches than prayers. Both could take lessons from Rev. Lowery who used wonderful scriptural images and a playful heart to deliver both a sound and prophetic benediction. Now that’s some praying!

  8. Here is the link to the text of Rev. Lowery’s benediciton: