Who Obama should pick to replace Giglio

With anti-gay Rev. Louie Giglio out, here are some progressive faith leaders who could replace him

Topics: Religion, Inauguration, Gay Rights, Barack Obama,

Who Obama should pick to replace Giglio (Credit: AP/Jim Cole)

With Rev. Louie Giglio bowing out of giving the benediction at President Obama’s second inaugural after his anti-gay sermons came to light, the question turns to who should be selected in his stead. A spokesperson for the Presidential Inaugural Committee confirmed that “there will be an effort to replace him,” but declined to specify who it might be. With so little time left, we thought we’d offer some suggestions.

Giglio, like Rev. Rick Warren before him, was chosen as a token of good will to conservative Christian evangelicals, but the inauguration gives Obama a chance to elevate someone from the progressive faith movement, which often gets overshadowed by its conservative counterpart. There are plenty of good progressive faith leaders to choose from, but here are just a few names whose worldview likely align more closely with Obama’s than Giglio, in no particular order:

Bishop Gene Robinson: Robinson, the first openly gay senior leader in the Anglican Communion, has demonstrated that the Christian faith and tolerance toward homosexuality are not mutually exclusive. Picking Robinson would be a good way to smooth things over with those put off by the selection of Giglio, though he already gave the invocation at a concert connected to Obama’s 2009 inauguration, so it may be better to give someone else a chance.

Bishop Minerva Carcaño: As the first Hispanic woman elected to the higher echelons of The United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the country, Carcaño has been an outspoken leader on a variety of social justice causes, including immigration and gay rights. She is currently the Bishop of Los Angeles. Previously, she served as bishop of Phoenix, where she took a strong stand against Arizona’s SB-1070 immigration law, calling it “unwise, short sighted and mean spirited.”

Jim Wallis: A tireless advocate of social and economic justice causes, few people have done more to advance progressive evangelical Christianity than Jim Wallis and the group he founded, Sojourners. Whether fighting Glenn Beck or Paul Ryan, Wallis has a knack for attracting attention in the big political fights of the day. Asked about what he wants to see in an inauguration chaplin, Wallis told the Washington Post this week: “When people ask my advice, I always say: ‘Use the occasion to remind our political leaders of their responsibility to the common good.’”

Brian McLaren: In the post-evangelical, non-denominational “emerging church” movement, McLaren has distinguished himself for promoting the idea of what he calls a New Kind of Christian (also the title of his 2001 book). Time magazine named him one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in 2005, a year when conservative evangelicals were ascendant after helping George W. Bush secure a second term.

Rabbi David Saperstein: Newsweek dubbed him one of the most influential rabbis in the country and the Washington Post called him a “quintessential religious lobbyist on Capitol Hill.” Rabbi Saperstein, who represents the Reform Jewish Movement in Washington, has worked to combat hate crimes and discrimination, in addition to pushing a host of other progressive causes in Congress. He’s even had a trial run, delivering the invocation at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

Welton Gaddy: Gaddy, a Baptist minister from Louisiana, has worked to bridge different faiths as president of the Interfaith Alliance. He also hosts the State of Belief radio program and does frequent media appearances, making him one of the most visible progressive faith leaders around.

Tony Jones: To appeal to the hip young set that elected him, Obama could pick Tony Jones, the youthful and intellectual theologian who looks more like the frontman of an indie rock band than a man of the cloth. A pioneer of the Postmodern Christianity movement, Jones is one of the most innovative progressive Christian thinkers out there.

Imam Mohamed Magid: As head of the Northern Virginia All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) and the Islamic Society of North America, Magid has become the go-to Muslim religious leader in Washington. When Herman Cain had to atone for saying he wouldn’t appoint Muslims to his cabinet, he went to Magid. When the White House needs an imam for its Iftar dinner, it turns to Magid. Not surprisingly, given his high profile, he’s been the subject of endless conspiracy theories from anti-Muslim activists, which would probably make Obama wary of selecting him, especially after the Giglio controversy, but it would be a huge gesture of goodwill to the often-maligned Muslim-American community.

Sister Simone Campbell: She became a minor rock star this summer with her Nuns on the Bus tour, which brought fired-up liberal nuns to a number of cities in an election year, but Campbell has been a longtime advocate of progressive faith as the head of the group NETWORK, leading the charge against Paul Ryan’s Medicare-voucherizing budget proposal.

Rev. James Forbes: Forbes, the senior minister emeritus of the large interdenominational Riverside Church in Manhattan, calls himself a theological radical and political progressive. The Riverside Church, which the New York Times in 2008 called “a stronghold of activism and political debate throughout its 75-year history,” has been involved in nearly every progressive movement for decades, from LGBT rights to Occupy Wall Street.

Rev. Luis Leon: Perhaps the only man who can claim to be Obama’s pastor today, Leon is the rector of St. John’s Church, which is just across Lafayette Park from the White House, and the Obama family’s most frequent site of worship. Leon, aware of his church’s unique location in inner-city Washington, has worked to reach out to both presidents and the city’s often-disenfranchised communities.

GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, has posted their own list, which includes a number of prominent progressive and gay-friendly clergy. We’ve avoided repeating any names, so take a look at their list as well.

There are plenty of other leaders who we couldn’t include, but let us know in the comments who you think Obama should appoint.

Alex Seitz-Wald

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>