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Obama Explains Why He Left His Church

From CBS News' Allison O'Keefe:

ABERDEEN, S.D. -– Barack Obama came before his traveling press corps this evening to discuss a letter he sent to Rev. Otis Moss of Trinity United Church in which Obama told Moss that with "sadness" he and his wife Michelle will no longer be members of the congregation.

It was an obviously trying decision for the candidate who paused reflectively throughout the 30-minute press conference.

Obama said that following what he called the Rev. Jeremiah Wright "incident," he had a long conversation with his wife Michelle and they came to the conclusion that it was going to be "very difficult to maintain membership there" as long as he was running for president.

The letter was sent Friday and this afternoon, the news of its existence was reported on CNN. It sent the traveling press corps into a frenzy and campaign staffers scattering. They were obviously caught off-guard and needed to discuss the developing story with Obama.

When he finally appeared before reporters, Obama said that if it was done his way, the news would have come out in a statement.

"I did not see this one coming," he said - a statement that surprised many given the indications that the Obama campaign knew Rev. Wright had the potential to be a political liability. Even though he was a spiritual adviser to the campaign early on, he was asked not to attend Obama's announcement event in Chicago.

"My faith is not contingent on the particular church that I belong to," Obama said when asked how he would talk about his faith politically moving forward.

"I don't think that I'm going through a religious test."

Obama admits that he can't remember the last time he actually attended Trinity United Church. "It has been months." Obama added that because of the rigors of his schedule, they will probably not find a new church until January. But he admits that this experience has raised some important questions.

"This is where you trust in God's will. I assume that he will lead us to a place where we can worship him and do good work...I don't consider Christianity a place to avoid the real problems in the world. Now, my faith tells me that we have to engage in those real problems in the world."

"I would expect that I would have a pastor who would not shy away from speaking out on those issues when he or she saw fit... it's a very personal decision for Michelle and I to find somebody who reflects a wisdom that ultimately is about reconciliation and unifying people and expressing a spirit of mercy along with a spirit of justice, a spirit of understanding along with a sense of righteous indignation about injustice."

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