The Chicago church attended by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) issued a statement Sunday contending that coverage of his pastor’s inflammatory statements amounted to character assassination and “an attack on … the history of the African American church.”
Obama condemned inflammatory statements by the church’s retiring pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., after they circulated on YouTube last week and were played repeatedly by cable news channels.
Wright, condemning society as racists, said, “God [expletive] America” and referred to the “U.S. of KKK-A.”
The statement begins: “Nearly three weeks before the 40th commemorative anniversary of the murder of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.’s character is being assassinated in the public sphere because he has preached a social gospel on behalf of oppressed women, children and men in America and around the globe.”
The statement adds: “Trinity United Church of Christ’s ministry is inclusive and global.”
Neither Wright nor Obama was present at the church on Sunday.
The statement was provided to Politico by Trinity’s minister of communications, the Rev. Joan R. Harrell.
Here is the full text of the statement, with the headline, “AN ATTACK ON OUR SENIOR PASTOR AND THE HISTORY OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCH”:
Chicago, Ill. (March 15, 2008) — Nearly three weeks before the 40th commemorative anniversary of the murder of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.’s character is being assassinated in the public sphere because he has preached a social gospel on behalf of oppressed women, children and men in America and around the globe.
“Dr. Wright has preached 207,792 minutes on Sunday for the past 36 years at Trinity United Church of Christ. This does not include weekday worship services, revivals and preaching engagements across America and around the globe, to ecumenical and interfaith communities. It is an indictment on Dr. Wright’s ministerial legacy to present his global ministry within a 15- or 30-second sound bite,” said the Reverend Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ.
During the 36-year pastorate of Dr. Wright, Trinity United Church of Christ has grown from 87 to 8,000 members. It is the largest congregation in the United Church of Christ (UCC) denomination.
“It saddens me to see news stories reporting such a caricature of a congregation that has been such a blessing to the UCC’s Wider Church mission,” said the Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC general minister and president, in a released statement. “ … It’s time for us to say ‘No’ to these attacks and declare that we will not allow anyone to undermine or destroy the ministries of any of our congregations in order to serve their own narrow political or ideological ends.”
Trinity United Church of Christ’s ministry is inclusive and global. The following ministries have been developed under Dr. Wright’s ministerial tutelage for social justice: assisted living facilities for senior citizens, day care for children, pastoral care and counseling, health care, ministries for persons living with HIV/AIDS, hospice training, prison ministry, scholarships for thousands of students to attend historically black colleges, youth ministries, tutorial and computer programs, a church library, domestic violence programs and scholarships and fellowships for women and men attending seminary.
Moss added, “The African American Church was born out of the crucible of slavery and the legacy of prophetic African American preachers since slavery has been and continues to heal broken marginalized victims of social and economic injustices. This is an attack on the legacy of the African American Church which led and continues to lead the fiht for human rights in America and around the world.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached the Christian tenet, “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Before Dr. King was murdered on April 4, 1968, he preached, “The 11 o’clock hour is the most segregated hour in America.” Forty years later, the African American Church community continues to face bomb threats, death threats, and their ministers’ characters are assassinated because they teach and preach prophetic social concerns for social justice. Sunday is still the most segregated hour in America.