(RNS) The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a United Methodist pastor known for his skilled preaching and centrist views, will deliver the sermon at the inaugural National Prayer Service next Tuesday at Washington National Cathedral.
Hamilton is founding pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, which began in a funeral home but has grown to 16,000 members, the largest church in the denomination.
The National Prayer Service, which dates to George Washington, will be attended by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, and is expected to include prayers, readings, blessings and hymns delivered by religious leaders.
âIâm honored to have been asked to deliver the message for this service of worship,â Hamilton wrote on his blog. âAnd, to be honest, Iâm a bit nervous as well. Iâm used to preaching before thousands of people each weekend, but Iâve never had the President of the United States and our nationâs top leaders sitting on the front rows.â
Raised around Kansas City, Hamilton was baptized Catholic, converted to Pentecostalism as a teenager and attended Oral Roberts University, according to The United Methodist Reporter.
He later tired of Pentecostalismâs âblack-and-white, very conservative theology,â and joined the United Methodist Church after reading its Book of Discipline – perhaps the most unlikely conversion story since Saint Paul.
A prolific author, Hamiltonâs 13 books, including âSeeing Gray in a World of Black and White,â have sold nearly a million copies. That title hints at Hamiltonâs approach to controversial topics, including homosexuality, an issue that has divided his denomination and shaken up ObamaâsÂ inaugural program.
Last week, the Rev. Louie Giglio withdrew from delivering the benediction at Obamaâs inauguration after a sermon surfaced from the 1990s in which the evangelical pastor denounced the gay rights movement. The Rev. Louis Leon, rector of St. Johnâs Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square near the White House, will take Giglioâs place.
As for Hamilton, he has criticized Christians who castigate gays and lesbians. But he also found fault with gay and lesbian activists for boycotting Willow Creek Church near Chicago.
In a 2011 blog post, Hamilton said:
Some Christians see the biblical teaching on homosexuality as reflecting the culture and times in which the Bible was written and not reflecting Godâs eternal perspective on homosexual people. Others believe these scriptures represent Godâs timeless will for how human beings practice intimacy. Some of the latter are militant in their anti-homosexual position. But most thoughtful evangelical pastors struggle with the tension between their desire to welcome and and love all people and their desire to be faithful to the scriptures regarding sexuality as they understand them. Willow Creek is among the latter and their pastor, Bill Hybels, from my perspective, is someone who has sought to welcome and love gay and lesbian people while holding to traditional understandings of these biblical texts.
Last year, Hamilton proposed a resolution at a United Methodist assembly to soften church doctrine that calls homosexuality âincompatible with Christian teaching.â The resolution, which stated that church members disagree on homosexuality, failed.
In a sermon last September, Hamilton said he has wrestled throughout his Christian life with the question of how to interpret biblical writings on homosexuality: Are they time-bound prohibitions, or Godâs eternal word?
âYou can be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and somebody who loves all people and is serious about your faith and a mature Christian, and you can make an argument on either side of that line,â Hamilton preached. âI have made a case on both sides of that line before.â
âI was raised in a church that says: The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it. And that really works well as long as you donât read very much of the Bible,â Hamilton continued. âBut I would probably still find myself on the conservative side of this issue were it not for all the people that I have met.â
Hamilton then spoke of seeing âthe light of Christâ in the lives of gay and lesbian members of his congregation and the difficulty he would have telling his daughter, if she were a lesbian, that Scripture condemns her to âa life aloneâ without romantic love.
Hamilton was named one of â10 people to watch in Americaâs spiritual landscapeâ by Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly in 2000. The United Methodist Reporter said Hamilton âmay reach more United Methodists than anyone else in the denominationâ though his books, sermons, speeches, videos and blog posts.
Washington National Cathedral has hosted inaugural prayer services since Franklin Delano Rooseveltâs first inauguration in 1933, according to the inauguration committee. Earlier this month the Episcopal cathedral announced that it would begin hosting weddings for same-sex couples.
âThe tradition of the National Prayer Service honors the values and diversity that make America strong,â said Steve Kerrigan, CEO of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, âand we are privileged to have Reverend Hamiltonâs voice joining this celebration of the role of people of faith during the 57th Inauguration.â
In 2009, the Rev. Sharon Watkins of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was the first woman to preach at the National Prayer Service.