Houston, Aug. 3 (AP) -- The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell said he agreed to introduce Texas Gov. George W. Bush as the GOP's nominee for president because he brings a new openness to the party and has appointed women and minorities to state office.

But Caldwell, pastor of one of the nation's largest, most affluent black churches, disagrees with Bush on abortion, affirmative action, the death penalty, gun control, and other issues.

One example: While Bush was defending the execution of Texas prison inmate Gary Graham in June, Caldwell was leading death penalty opponents in prayer at Graham's funeral.

And Caldwell, who will make the introduction at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, isn't even a Republican.

"I am there to let independents and even Democrats know it's OK to vote for this guy, in spite of the differences I have with him," said Caldwell, leader of Houston's Windsor Park Methodist Church. "I am saying he is a fair man who has demonstrated social and economic inclusiveness."

This week, some church members and leaders of Houston's black community were critical of Caldwell's decision to support Bush.

Caldwell defended his stance, saying Bush's home ownership and tax plans would benefit the poor and that he admires the candidate's "emotional intelligence," Christian values and entrepreneurial spirit.

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