Rick Warren: Stopping Gay Marriage 'Very Low' on Priority List

The evangelical pastor says that he has never been an anti-gay-marriage activist.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

Has Rick Warren changed his tune on gay marriage? In an appearance last night with Larry King—his first TV interview since delivering the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration (full transcript here)—Warren reaffirmed his opposition to same-sex marriage. But he also stressed that he's not an antigay-marriage activist and that the issue is in fact very far down on his priority list.

That seems to me a turnabout from 2004, when Warren included gay marriage among five "nonnegotiable" issues in a letter he sent to his Saddleback Church congregants before the presidential election. Yesterday, the megapastor put stopping gay marriage "very low" on his to-do list. Here's the exchange, which mentions Warren's stance on Proposition 8, California's recently adopted gay marriage ban:

RICK WARREN: In the first place, I am not an anti-gay or anti-gay-marriage activist. I never have been, never will be. During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never—never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop 8 was going.

The week before the—the vote, somebody in my church said, 'Pastor Rick, what—what do you think about this?' And I sent a note to my own members that said, I actually believe that marriage is—really should be defined, that that definition should be—say between a man and a woman.

And then all of a sudden out of it, they made me, you know, something that I really wasn't. And I actually—there were a number of things that were put out. I wrote to all my gay friends—the leaders that I knew—and actually apologized to them. That never got out . . . .

Not a single criticism came from any gay leader who knows me and knows that for years we've been working together on AIDS issues and all these other things.

LARRY KING: All right. Do you, therefore, criticize or not comment on the Iowa court decision to permit gay marriage?

WARREN: Yes. I'm—I'm totally oblivious to—to what—that's not even my agenda. My agenda is two things. One, today is the 15th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. It's a national day of mourning, which I—as you know, I've been heavily involved in—in Rwanda and helping rebuild that nation and I'm very concerned about that.

And the second thing is, I'm interested in what the recession is doing to the spiritual climate of our nation. And as we start Easter week and Passover week, which is a really big week for those of us who are Jews or Christians, Passover and Easter, it's our biggest week of the year. And it actually was the—the week that I started Saddleback Church 30 years ago this Easter Sunday. . . . KING. One other thing in the gay issue, while you said you were not an activist at all . . . did you not encourage your flock to vote yes on Proposition 8?

WARREN: Oh, yes. You know, I don't think that the definition of marriage should be changed.KING: So you did ask your people who worship with you to vote that way?

WARREN: Yes. I just never campaigned. . . .KING: It's not high on your road of issues?

WARREN: No, no, it's very low. In fact, I am working with a number of gay organizations on issues that we care about, in saving lives.

Also worth noting from the Purpose Driven pastor's Larry King appearance: The White House (though not Obama himself) is in pretty regular touch with Warren, who thinks Obama's "doing as best he can" as president and lends his imprimatur to the president's Muslim outreach offensive in Turkey this week. "I think that's the exact right tone," Warren said. "There are 600,000 Buddhists in the world. There are 800,000 Hindus in the world. There are a billion Muslims in the world. There are 2.3 billion Christians in the world. You have to get along together. That's why I speak with Jewish groups. I speak to Muslim groups."