When all the stuff from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright started hitting the fan a couple of days ago, I decided I would only comment if the United Church of Christ stepped in. I don’t deal with partisan politics here, but the ecclesiastical angle is another story. Well, I didn’t have to wait long:
In the wake of misleading attacks on its mission and ministry, Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ is being lauded by United Church of Christ leaders across the nation for the integrity of its worship, the breadth of its community involvement and the depth of its commitment to social justice.
That may well be true of Trinity Church, but the church isn’t the issue, except to the extent that it agreed with and appreciated the bizarre, racist, conspiracy-mongering and trash-talking of its senior pastor.
“Trinity United Church of Christ is a great gift to our wider church family and to its own community in Chicago,” says UCC General Minister and President John H. Thomas. “At a time when it is being subjected to caricature and attack in the media, it is critical that all of us express our gratitude and support to this remarkable congregation, to Jeremiah A. Wright for his leadership over 36 years, and to Pastor Otis Moss III, as he assumes leadership at Trinity.
“Caricature”? I’m not sure that’s the right word for someone who thinks that the U.S. invented AIDS and sells drugs to destroy black people, thinks that New York and Washington got what they deserved on 9/11, who echoes Fred Phelps in calling on God to damn America, who honors Louis Farrakhan as a man who “truly epitomized greatness, etc. Having seen the video and read the transcripts, I think a lot of folks have Jeremiah Wright pegged just right.
“These attacks, many of them motivated by their own partisan agenda, cannot go unchallenged,” Thomas emphasizes. “It’s time for all of us to say ‘No’ to these attacks and to 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.”
Thankfully, there is no ideological agenda at work, either in Wright’s anti-American, anti-white, conspiracy-mongering screeds or in Thomas’ defense of him. Just pure gospel honesty. Fortunately, the latter’s defense is based on personal experience, Thomas having worshiped at Trinity on several occasions:
“While the worship is always inspiring, the welcome extravagant, and the preaching biblically based and prophetically challenging, I have been especially moved by the way Trinity ministers to its young people, nurturing them to claim their Christian faith, to celebrate their African-American heritage, and to pursue higher education to prepare themselves for leadership in church and society,” Thomas says.
“Biblically based and prophetically challenging” preaching–yeah, that’s the ticket. Check out an example of it here. Or here. Please notice that at no point does Thomas deal with the substance of what Wright is on videotape saying. Wright’s conference minister, the Rev. Steve Gray, is also an enthusiastic supporter:
The Rev. Steve Gray, the UCC’s Indiana-Kentucky Conference Minister, describes Trinity UCC as a “jewel.”
“It’s everything a Christian community is supposed to be,” says Gray, who has been working with Trinity UCC for the past three years to develop a new UCC congregation in Gary, Ind. “Trinity has given well over $100,000 in support of its partnership with us, and in 15 months of regular meetings with Jeremiah Wright, we always found him to be a man of gracious hospitality, humor, generosity, who paid attention to detail but also a man who does not call attention to himself.”
Gray also said this with regard to the Trinity congregation, just to give you an idea of how lots of leaders in the UCC think:
“When you’re Euro-American, the people [at Trinity UCC] are so exceedingly gracious, warm and welcoming. They hug you and say, ‘Welcome to our church!'”
Isn’t that extra special? But given what we’ve been hearing about their senior pastor’s preaching, maybe it’s kind of surprising, after all.
UPDATE: I wonder if Rev. Gray would feel quite so welcome–as a Euro-American, I mean–if he wanted to take the new members class at Trinity. From the March 9 bulletin:
BLACK AND CHRISTIAN NEW MEMBER CLASS
Have you given your heart to Christ, walked the aisle and given your hand to the preacher? So that you may become a full-fledged member of Trinity United Church of Christ, you MUST complete your new member class!
I know Trinity has some non-black members, but I can’t imagine this is the best way to bring them in.
(Hat tip: anonymous commenter at UCC Truths.)