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But the decision by the National Cathedral is not without controversy. Long part of the nation's political fabric, the cathedral was where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last Sunday sermon. The cathedral has served as the backdrop for the inaugural prayer service for President Barack Obama and several other presidents, as well as for the state funeral of former President Ronald Reagan in 2004. Within hours of the announcement, right-wing websites such as freerepublic.com – as well as left-leaning and mainstream sites – posted reader comments claiming characterizing the move as an example of some ''twisting'' the Christian faith to satisfy ''unnatural'' or ''disgusting desires.''
In addition, the Episcopal Church has found itself at the center of ongoing debates and threats of a possible schism relating to the church's stance on gay-rights issues, particularly since conservative factions within the church expressed anger at the 2003 consecration of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the church's first openly gay bishop. Hall sought to address some of those concerns in the National Cathedral's official statement.
''Matters of human sexual identity and question about the Church's role in blessing lifelong, committed relationship between its members are serious issues around which feelings run high and people of good will can often disagree,'' Hall said. ''It is my hope and prayer that, if all of us open ourselves to the fullness and diversity of our nation's many voices, we will learn to walk together in a new way as we listen for God's call to us to be faithful to each other and to God.''