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Jeremiah Wright
Rev. Jeremiah Wright, photo by Robin Holland
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April 25, 2008

More than 3,000 news stories have been penned since early April about Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama. But behind the five second loop is a man who has preached three different sermons nearly every Sunday since 1972. In his interview on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL, Reverend Wright discusses what drew him to the pulpit and the recent controversy surrounding him.

Reverend Jeremiah Wright

Jeremiah Wright was raised in Philadelphia's Germantown neighborhood, his father was a prominent Baptist minister and his mother a respected educator. In the early 1960s, Wright left college at Virginia Union University and signed up for the United States Marine Corps. After his required duty ended, Wright transferred to the Navy and served three more years as a medical technician.

After leaving the Navy, Wright transferred to Howard University in Washington, D.C. to complete his undergraduate degree. He went on to take degrees from Chicago Divinity School and United Theological Seminary. After spending some time teaching religious history, Jeremiah Wright elected to instead pursue "public ministry". Public ministry, as his friend and mentor Martin E. Marty explains, means focusing on: "conventional pastoral roles and carrying the message and work of the church to the public arena."

Trinity Church

Jeremiah Wright became the pastor of Trinity Church in 1972. At the time, it was a struggling congregation with only 87 members. In his interview on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL, Wright explains that his predecessor, Reverend Dr. Reuben Sheares, coined the phrase "Unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian" to answer a two-fold problem that he felt black Christians faced as African-Americans and Christians: "Blacks coming out of the '60s were no longer ashamed of being black people, nor did they have to apologize for being Christians. Because many persons in the African-American community were teased enough, Christians, of being a white man's religion. And no, we're not ashamed of Christianity. And we don't have to apologize for who we are as African-Americans." Some aspects of Trinity's philosophy falls within tradition of Black Liberation Theology. James Cone in first laid out in BLACK POWER AND BLACK THEOLOGY in 1969.

>>View an interview with James Cone and find out more about the crucial role of black churches in American history.

Trinity Church has grown in size and scope under Wright's leadership. He and his congregation have made pilgrimages to Africa, welcomed women leaders and gay members and made Trinity a social force with over 70 ministries addressing community needs ranging from youth groups to day care. The Church today boasts a congregation of 8500 members — making it the largest in the otherwise predominately white United Church of Christ denomination.

Published on April 25, 2008.

Guest photo by Robin Holland

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References and Reading:
"Obama pastor Jeremiah Wright's incendiary quotes illuminate chasm between races"
Jeffrey Weiss of THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS analyzes some of the soundbites in context and charts "some of the historical claims made in a 2003 recorded version of that sermon and the position of many experts on those claims."

"Rev. Jeremiah Wright's words: Sound bite vs. sermon excerpt"
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE staff follows sound bites with fuller excerpts and analysis.

"Obama’s Speech on Race"
Complete interactive text and video of Barack Obama's March 18, 2008 speech. Also, a text version.

"Obama's minister problem"
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL'S Lanny Davis on why Jeremiah Wright, Jr is a problem for Barack Obama.

Trinity United Church of Christ
The Web site of Wright's congregation.

Times Topics: Jeremiah Wright
The collected coverage of Jeremiah Wright in the NEW YORK TIMES.

"McCain Asks N.C. to Pull Ad Attacking Obama"
April 24, 2008, NPR.

"Prophet and Pastor"
Wright's friend and former professor, Martin E. Marty writes in defense of his character while disagreeing with some of his opinions. April 11, 2008.

"Wright's sermons fueled by complex mix of culture, religion,"
Manya A. Brachear, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, March 28, 2008.

Mike Huckabee on Jeremiah Wright
Former GOP presidential candidate and pastor Mike Huckabee defends Wright.

"A Paradoxical Feeling"
FORBES interviews James Cone about black liberation theology.

"The Wright Post 9/11 Sermon"
Blogger Andrew Sullivan posts the entirety of one of Wright's controversial sermons and offers his critique.

"Obama's Farrakhan Test"
THE WASHINGTON POST's Richard Cohen calls on Barack Obama to distance himself from Reverend Wright and Lewis Farrakhan.

Also This Week:

Bill Moyers interviews the Reverend Jeremiah Wright in his first broadcast interview with a journalist since he became embroiled in a controversy for his remarks and his relationship with Barack Obama. Wright, who retired in early 2008 as pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where Senator Obama is a member, has been at the center of controversy for comments he made during sermons, which surfaced in the press in March.

From David Walker's "Appeal" through Freedman's School and Black Theology — learn more.

Celebrate National Poetry Month with exclusive online videos.

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