Obama pastor: Scrutiny will strengthen faith




By Karen Hawkins

CHICAGO – The new pastor of Barack Obama’s South Side church said during Easter Sunday services that recent national scrutiny of the church is a test that will only make the congregation stronger.

“Any time you go through a crucifixion experience … eventually they have to lift you up,” said the Rev. Otis Moss III, who did not shy away from the controversy surrounding his predecessor at Trinity United Church of Christ, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.

Wright retired from Trinity’s pulpit last month but retains the title of senior pastor. Video from some of his more inflammatory sermons have surfaced online and on television in recent weeks.

Moss said Sunday that Wright’s critics and the news media “are just lifting us up to give us the opportunity to speak love to this situation.”

Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate, has responded to the flap by condemning Wright’s statements but expressing admiration and support for the pastor who officiated at his wedding, baptized his two daughters and inspired the title of his best-selling book, “The Audacity of Hope.”

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In a speech last week that took the country’s racial divide head-on, Obama – the son of a white woman from Kansas and a Kenyan father – said black anger persists over injustice in America, and whites shouldn’t be surprised about the way it’s expressed in sermons.

“The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning,” Obama said.

Trinity describes itself as “Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian,” a declaration some consider separatist and even racist. In recent days, a CBS News poll indicated most voters have heard at least something about Wright’s comments, and about a third said that made them feel more negative.

But at the church itself, the “unashamedly black” identity can be seen in the African and African-American art on the walls and windows.

Moss told the more than 3,000 worshippers at one of four Easter services that the controversy has opened an unprecedented dialogue about race.

“We are talking in ways we have never talked as a country,” he said.