Fresh from being tapped to deliver the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration, Orange County Pastor Rick Warren spoke Saturday night to about 800 members of the Muslim Public Affairs Council at its convention in Long Beach.
Warren's theme was about people getting along, forgetting their differences and focusing on areas of agreement. The audience cheered him, and many people rose to their feet.
Among the first to stand was singer Melissa Etheridge, a lesbian, who performed for the audience.
Recognizing the potential for controversy, Warren said near the beginning of his speech: "Let me just get this over very quickly. I love Muslims. And for the media's purpose, I happen to love gays and straights."
He said people ask him what he prays for when it comes to Obama. "I pray for the president the same things I pray for myself: integrity, humility and compassion," he said.
A council spokeswoman acknowledged that some members objected to the choice of the evangelical pastor as the keynote speaker.
"We're always looking to work with unlikely partners, and I think he's a new kind of evangelical," said spokeswoman Edina Lekovic. "We have a lot in common."
Warren, like many Muslims, opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. Lekovic said he was introduced to the council by Orange County Muslim leaders who held an interfaith picnic with his congregation.
Obama last week chose Warren, who heads Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, to deliver the invocation at next month's inauguration.
The action angered gay and lesbian rights groups because Warren supported Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban that California voters passed in November.
Obama and the conservative white pastor have often found common ground. After meeting in Washington in January 2006, they began speaking regularly by phone.
While writing his best-selling book "The Audacity of Hope," Obama asked Warren, author of the 2002 bestseller "The Purpose Driven Life," to review the chapter on faith.
Warren also served as part of a "prayer circle" of supportive clergy leaders during Obama's presidential campaign.