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Pastor Rick Warren prays alongside Mayor Villaraigosa

February 14, 2009 |  1:38 pm

Evangelical minister Rick Warren brought a message of unity and civility to more than 1,000 people who attended the annual Los Angeles Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast today, avoiding mention of his outspoken opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights.

Warren, pastor of Orange County’s Saddleback Church and author of the best-selling “A Purpose-Driven Life,” acknowledged that “sometimes I’m a little controversial.” But as in his recent invocation at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, he preached on universal themes of God’s love and service to the poor.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was less circumspect, and acknowledged his support of same-sex marriage and “a woman’s right to choose.” He mentioned that he had performed marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.

Warren was a strong supporter of California’s Proposition 8, the recently approved ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage in the state.

“We won’t always agree,” Villaraigosa told the audience gathered at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel  downtown. “But we can agree on basic civil rights. We may not agree on Roe vs. Wade, but we both want to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortion.”

Before the breakfast began, Warren worked the crowd in the giant ballroom, shaking hands and hugging guests at more than a dozen tables. “I love the way he prays,” said Rumania Urbina, a retired teacher and immigrant from Venezuela. “It feels wonderful.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, a Republican, praised Warren as “a pastor who believes in traditional marriage” and congratulated Los Angeles officials for having “the courage to say no to political correctness” and welcoming a speaker who is “not ashamed of his savior Jesus Christ.”

--Margot Roosevelt