This is a discussion on Anti Racism, the media, and the African American experience.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Pastor of the UCC church speaks out about Jeremiah Wright

Brothers and sisters (in honor of Jeremiah Wright), Hotlist

Sun Mar 16, 2008 at 04:50:08 PM PDT

It's been a painful couple of days.

As many if not all of you already know, I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. If the UCC were a ship, I'd own a plank: my family's roots go back to the Reformation in Westphalia. My grandfather was ordained in the Evangelical and Reformed church, a predecessor to the UCC, and served a church in suburban Detroit for nearly forty years. My father was in one of the earliest classes of ordinands in the new denomination, and pastored ably in Ohio, Missouri and Wisconsin. I told God to look elsewhere for the fourth generation, which of course just about guarantees that one of our kids will grow up to become a pastor.

Scratch me and I bleed United Church of Christ. I was born in a UCC-affiliated hospital, grew up in a UCC congregation, found myself in another, and owe my sanity and career to the service to which I have been called.

You dis the UCC, and you dis mi familia, ese.

Honestly, I don't know what's been worse: the ignorant slurs against Jeremiah Wright or the well-intentioned inaccuracies. Some of the latter are understandable. As the national denomination says, Trinity UCC in Chicago is our "flagship congregation," yet it is also an anomaly: a black evangelical megachurch in a denomination that is overwhelmingly white, traditional and mostly small.

And while we have a long tradition of social activism, we're not even as liberal as some folks would have you believe. Like most mainline denominations, we're only modestly more Democratic than Republican, and only recently so. (Which makes us moderates, not conservatives, but drifting to the left.)

In any event, we're not all radical fire-breathers like Jeremiah Wright, but we do take a familial protectiveness toward him. Even when we can't live up to the preaching of the prophets, we pride ourselves in being goaded by the best.

And we are certainly not a gang of haters. Nor is Jeremiah Wright. To mention one example I'm familiar with, the Conference Minister of the very white Wisconsin Conference went to Wright to ask for his help in establishing a black congregation in Milwaukee. The Conference Minister thought he was going to get some advice and perhaps a commitment to help in the future. Instead, after a one hour meeting, Wright declared that one of his associates would plant the church, with one year's full financial support from Trinity, since extended to two or three. Does that sound like the actions of a hater to you? It doesn't to me.

I am likewise proud of Jeremiah Wright (and yes, Barack Obama), even if I can't always go where he does in his Afrocentrism. I have enjoyed the company of more than one black congregation, and know how vibrant their faith is, how deeply held it is and how deeply connected to the plight of their people. And make no mistake: they are still in plight. Perhaps the very richest African-Americans no longer know poor folks or the sting of continued discrimination. I've never met any who didn't.

In that, for all their other faults, black Christians live close to the gospel, where white folks should be but seldom can push themselves. It stings to see a political ally dragged through the mud, but it hurts, deep, to watch as someone who actually tries to live the message of redemption and liberation in Jesus Christ is pilloried as a hater, a racist, and a purveyor of violent rhetoric.

This one is for you, Rev. Wright:

The United Church of Christ Statement of Faith in the form of a doxology

We believe in you, O God, Eternal Spirit, God of our Savior Jesus Christ and our God, and to your deeds we testify:

You call the worlds into being, create persons in your own image,and set before each one the ways of life and death.

You seek in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin.

You judge people and nations by your righteous will declared through prophets and apostles.

In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Savior, you have come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the world to yourself.

You bestow upon us your Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races.

You call us into your church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be your servants in the service of others, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil,to share in Christ's baptism and eat at his table, to join him in his passion and victory.

You promise to all who trust you forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, your presence in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life in your realm which has no end.

Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto you.


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