Obama’s Trinity Church Runs Full-Page Ad in New York Times

As I mentioned in my recent post, Good Friday; My 50th Birthday Today; Why White People Can Relax, I have a friend in Chicago who, like Barack Obama, is a member of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s now famous Trinity United Church in Christ. This friend (hi, Sheree!) e-mailed me yesterday to let me know that the UCC had run a full-page ad in yesterday’s New York Times. The text of that ad is below.

Much has been said about the United Church of Christ in recent weeks, much of it hurtful for many in our country, including members of Trinity UCC in Chicago. That is why we are eager to share the broad and diverse story of the United Church of Christ, one that we celebrate.

With all Christians, we rest in God’s amazing grace and hear God’s voice in the words of Scripture. Yet, the UCC is unique to some because we do not require uniformity of belief. We are a church of open ideas, extravagant welcome and evangelical courage. Our passion for democracy extends to both government and church, where decision-making rests within each congregation. We support liberty in our pulpits, just as we affirm the individual conscience of our 1.2-million members to agree, disagree and wrestle with life’s biggest questions in a spirit of love.

Our story is this nation’s story. We are the people of the Mayflower. More than 600 of our 5,700 congregations were formed before 1776. Eleven signers of the Declaration of Independence were members of UCC predecessor bodies.

As early abolitionists, we came to the aid of the Amistad captives and founded hundreds of schools across the South after the Civil War. We were the first mainline church to ordain an African-American (1785), a woman (1853) and an openly gay pastor (1972). We were also the first to form a foreign mission society (1810). Our multi-ethnic membership includes persons from every immigrant group, as well as native peoples and descendants of freed slaves.

Our unity is not dependent upon uniform agreement, but in our shared allegiance to Jesus Christ. Ours is a risk-taking church, because ours is a risk-taking God.

God is still speaking.

(For related posts, see Praise God: A Politician Finally Said Something Real About Racism [posted March 19, 2008], and “If You’ve Ever Said Any of These Six Things, You Might be a Racist”)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • When people have time to write, think, and know millions are listening, anyone can make anything sound appealing. I don't doubt some aspects to the ad, I'm sure there are some truths in there, but its simple propaganda that is trying to counteract what has been shown about them. I'm not a black & Obama hater, but things like that do make me question things. I can probably write an article convincing people that drinking bleach is good to help lose weight, get rid of antioxidants, and that it may help cure cancer. Just give me some time to think, let me know people are listening, and let me write it down so I can edit, re-edit, and edit some more so it sounds perfect.

  • Thanks for keeping us informed John.

  • Thanks John. I don't keep up the the NY Times so I would not have seen this. It is an excellent rebuttal to the few minutes of youtube video that is being used as the basis to judge this large, diverse, and historic church. I imagine they were accused of no longer being a Christian Church when they ordained an African-American back in 1785… Any church body that puts unity in Christ alone ahead of unity with political machinery has my respect.

  • arlywn

    maybe I'm missing the point… but what was so wrong with the trinity thing? Other than what I saw from the news ( rev. wright appeared to be saying not to vote for barack obama.) johns post seems to be positive? I'm not sure, I havent followed this close enough.

    I think uniting and supporting each other is a good thing. History is a good thing, not all of it's good, but knowing it is good.

    now, granted some african americans make bad choices… but so do lots of other people! I generally think they're okay as long as they dont cause me a problem, I'm fine.

    come to think about… I'm fine about a lot of things as long as it doesnt effect me. lol.

  • John,

    I have to agree with you on this one. Think I already cited a song about this.

    Now I'll quote a favorite performer of yours – the late, great James Brown.

    "When I'm on stage, I'm trying to do one thing: bring people joy. Just like church does. People don't go to church to find trouble, they go there to lose it."


  • Shell

    Ingrid, Your comments are great (and needed)! Please continue to post. Danggone!

  • Allen

    Sounds like a church has been brainwashed into calling good evil and evil good. They do a great job of explaining why our culture tolerates anything but Biblical truth.

    Where’s the grace in Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for the last 36 years, denouncing of the United States and the white race in terms that should shock and disgust every thinking American.

    All you need to do is go Trinity United Church of Christ (go to the website to check for yourself) to find, and I quote, “An unabashedly black congregation with a non-negotiable commitment to Africa . An African people, ‘true to our native land, the mother continent, the cradle of civilization.”

    I was also startled by a number of the points in Trinity United

    Church’s 10-Point Vision:

    * A congregation with a Non-negotiable Commitment to Africa .

    * A congregation committed to Cultural Education ( Africa ).

    * A congregation committed to the Historical Education of African People in Diaspora.

    * A congregation committed to Liberation.

    * A congregation committed to Restoration. (Could this mean


    Trinity’s senior pastor Wright, Jr., is considered by many to be a black racist, who, without question, preaches radical Afro-centric theology. Some of his comments represent a radical liberation theology which is heretical in many ways.

    The church claims to be Christian and may well teach some biblical principles. But the vision of the church and the mission it holds to, belies its Christian ethics. It is a wholly black church which has committed its loyalty to the African Continent and educating African Americans. The claim to be Christian can’t alter its racist tendencies.

    The first paragraph of the “About Us” section of the church’s website mentions the word “black” or “Africa” five times:

    It encourages blacks to group together and separate from the larger American society by pooling their money, patronizing black-only businesses and backing black leaders. Such racial separatism is strangely at odds with the portrayal in your article of church uniter.

    The pastor also said that Jesus was a black man who was killed by rich white people??? This guy is………. nuts! Last time I checked Jesus was put to death as part of God’s Plan for the salvation of anyone who would trust in Him. He was killed as a result of the sins of me, you and anyone else who isn’t perfect (aka everyone; regardless of skin color!) I’m not sure what ‘Bible’ this man reads and teaches to his church’ (really it sounds like more of a cult) but I’m thankful that mine says what it does!

  • Ingrid

    John, I know I promised. Just danggone. I’m sorry, but here I go again. Yep, Allen, you are absolutely right on all accounts. The problem with your “problem” concerning Trinity is that you don’t realize that they have created an atmosphere not of hate, but of self empowerment.

    Many black people identify with the lost pieces of our heritage, and often look to Africa and African culture to find it. Funny, it’s sorta how Irish American or Italian American or Asian Americans (or __________ American etc…) go back to to their homelands to trace genealogy and heritage or help those they left behind.

    The only real difference is African Americans have to guess, but I guess it makes some non black Americans feel threatened that we choose to identify with the ground that our ancestors were stolen from. Sorry, black folks are funny like that sometimes. Trust and believe every black person you have ever encountered is effected by that lack of history.

    There is a definite need for liberation within the body of Christ and especially within the African American community. Our chains are no longer physical, but rather cultural in that there are those who prefer to hide their eyes in the sand to the very real disparity between whites and ALL minorities in this country.

    And what is the problem with black folks supporting black owned businesses? Trinity is not a federal or state agency. It is a church with a largely black congregation and in that congregation are entrepreneurs who benefit from the support of the people they know. I support black owned businesses at every chance I get. The truth is if there was a black multi national conglomerate that I could purchase meds, groceries, peeps (I do love peeps), and toilet paper from for the prices I get at Wal Mart, I’d never shop Wal mart again.

    Restoration refers to the mental, physical and spiritual restoration of the people who attend the church. Somethings mean exactly what it says. That tenet is not unique or odd. They are not asking for 40 acres and a mule or a check. Take a deep breath and relax, with the exception of the stimulus package checks your tax dollars are safe. Scouts honor. The are not asking for restitution or reparations. Or if they are they will just say that.

    No one calls white folks racist when they drop into their nearest Wal-mart (white owned) or supports their husbands deli, grandma’s bakery, or poppa’s pub so what is so bad about black folks doing the same thing?

    They have not committed their loyalty to the African continent, they have however chosen to support and where possible uplift people of black African descent abroad and in the US.

    Sorry Allen, maybe righteous indignation could be put to better use like wondering how George Dubya campaigned with evangelicals as the “saved” candidate and has not once shown us any of Jesus’ compassion the last 8 years. Rev. Wright is not running for anything and at last check Obama has spoken his peace about Rev. Wrights sermons.

    Love it or hate it — free speech is a mutha sometimes.

  • Ingrid: I LIKE you to comment here. Your comments–as many as you care to make, as long as you care to make them–are always welcomed here.

    Allen: Do yourself a favor, and really HEAR what Ingrid is saying. Or at least try to. Relax a little. You went to the Trinity site. You spent a lot of time there. You cut and pasted a bunch of stuff off their site. You’re clearly angry about what you found on the site. You’re radiating mondo hostility over it.

    But honestly: Are you so dense about the history of blacks in America that you just can’t begin to grasp how and why churches just like Trinity, all across the country, thrive, and resonate so deeply with their congregations? Is it SUCH a mystery to you as to why black Americans might be just a TAD interested in seeking affirmation about their identity and history not in the land in which for 300+ years they were systematically, beaten, raped, murdered, owned, and treated like farm animals to be pissed on anytime anyone wanted, but rather from the land from which they were so violently and cruelly abducted? From their true homeland, rather than from the place that never wanted anything from them but their work, their dignity, and their blood?

    Grow up, partner. Learn some empathy. Learn some HISTORY, if nothing else. But stop with the kind of nonsense you’re raving about here. Something inside of you has GOT to know how wrong you are to be so bilious about something so natural that you BETTER know you’d be in a church just like Trinity if your grandfather or great grandfather had been born a slave. Or if you personally had to live with the same kind of grueling, relentless, endless racism that, if you’re black in America, is as regular a part of your everyday life as is eating or going to sleep at night. Subtle, overt, outrageous, inadvertant: if you’re black, the ugly fact of raw, dumbass racism is inescapable. And people like you SURE the freak aren’t helping.

  • A coworker of mine told me a cross was burned in her family’s yard while she was growing up in the 60s and 70s. She desperately wanted God to “make her white” because being black was so bad. I remember being taught about the PROS and CONS of “Separate but Equal.” As a child I was being taught the PROS of state-sanctioned racism.

    If I stop and imagine how I might feel if I were black I would probably be unforgiving and angry (putting things mildly). I read in a youth ministry magazine last year that a school in Georgia had there very FIRST joint black – white prom. 2007. They had been having separate (can every say but equal) proms forever… So sad.

    So the fact that we even have such a thing as “Black Churches” should make us very sad. We should feel quite convicted. Our “white churches” (for generations) have obviously not met them “where they are.” And where are they? Well Ingrid gives a very good opening description. It would be quite Christian of us to listen in an attempt meet all people “where they are”

  • My only question: DO WE SERVE THE SAME GOD?

    The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary defines


    1 possibility of loss or injury: PERIL

    2 someone or something that creates or suggests a hazard

    3 a: the chance of loss or the perils to the subject matter of an insurance contract; also the degree of probability of such loss b : a person or thing that is a specified hazard to an insurer c: an insurance hazard from a specified cause or source

    4 the chance that an investment (as a stock or commodity) will lose value

  • Bev: My only question: WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

  • In particular I'm talking about the last paragraph:

    "Our unity is not dependent upon uniform agreement, but in our shared allegiance to Jesus Christ. Ours is a risk-taking church, because ours is a risk-taking God."

    The God I know and love and stand in awe of does not even take 'calculated' risks.

  • Wow, the sun comes up early in San Diego!

    Good morning. Thanks for this dialog. A friend of mine has generated some similar dialog over at:

    He asked an African-American friend to respond to Pat Buchanan's response to Obama's response to the public's response to Rev. Wright's comments. I responded. I think maybe we should thank Rev. Wright for (inadvertently) generating this dialog. But then, are Rev. Wright's comments merely responses to his congregations pains?… Where did all this really begin? I don't think we'll like the answer to that one.

  • Arnette

    Amen to Ingrid and I'm going to pray for Allen. The God I serve answers prayers, and does it WELL. When the UCC says God is a risk-taking God, I believe they mean that since He is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent He can go where it might seem "risky" for us, but it's nothing for Him. Lighten up—God is good, ALL THE TIME and ALL THE TIME, God is GOOD!

  • Dan Harrell

    I read the full text of Obama’s speech only now, and I know, I must have been under a rock, but I didn’t explore any of the Trinity Church issues or go on YouTube to see any of this for myself. This is precisely why I like to stop reading the newspaper, listening to the news on the radio or watching it on TV during the election cycle. I don’t stop, but I wish I could.

    What I did was carefully examine Obama’s speech in some detail. It is to me, a description of the world we live in, but one where we practice constant denial of the problems of racism or the cost of solutions. We have forgotten that this Union was formed under God and that equal opportunity and equal treatment of all is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. More importantly, for anyone who professes to be Christian, there is ample instruction in the Bible about how to love and succor the poor. Isn’t it time to wake up and realize what we’ve done for the past fifty years has not solved any of the root causes of racism and poverty?

    I find myself excited by the prospect of a leader that will tackle issues that have been swept under the rug for too long. Health care, education, racism and poverty should be far less a problem in a country like ours than it is. We should be leading the way in the world by coming together to tackle these issues; instead we battle inertia, apathy and ignorance.

    Let’s elect leaders that will represent the people they serve, rather than their own interests and their re-election fixation. I don’t believe there is any good argument to maintain the status quo on these issues. If the people we elect can’t move in a new direction, then let’s elect someone else until the people in Washington and the state capitols get the message. Maybe we need to have term limits so that we can replace the rascals we have now with new rascals. Maybe the job of senator or president shouldn’t be so attractive. With the scrutiny we have in election campaigns I’m amazed anyone can get elected at all. But somehow, we seem to have invented a new job classification, professional politician.

    I have confidence that America can change and become a better place for everyone. That now, on this anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death, we can dedicate ourselves to the eventual elimination of all forms of injustice and discrimination.

    There are no secrets or magic wands to make this happen. It has to start in your heart and be spread one person at a time.

  • Sally

    "We were the first mainline church to ordain an…openly gay pastor (1972)." So they endorse in from the pulpit too? Man, this church seems to be more and more off the wall.

  • Sally

    "We were the first mainline church to ordain an…openly gay pastor (1972)." So they endorse sin from the pulpit too? Man, this church seems to be more and more off the wall.

  • Sabina

    John/Ingrid thank you for your comments. I appreciate it very much.

  • Leif Sr.

    On one hand it’s discouraging that we’re still having these types of dialogs. It would be nice to think we as a nation have grown past all of it, however, as much as we have grown, as noted by Obama in his brilliant speech, we obviously still have “issues” to deal with.

    The thing is the issue the Rev. Wright is touching isn’t directly race. There is a growing segment of the American population that believes America is the focal point of humanities ills. You can write out a laundry list of what those ills are and get side tracked with dialogs about them; however the nerve Wright has touched is “America is the problem”. What is patriotism, loyalty, and being an American? We American’s are at a point in our history where we are, whether we like it or not, are having to define what Americanism is. How you respond to the before mentioned laundry list of ills no doubt will shape that definition.

    I’m glad John is such a talented instigator of debate. Historically, it took almost 200 years to progress from the signing of the Declaration of Independence to the Bill of Rights. Let’s hope we as a society don’t have to grind out that many years for further growth.

  • Ron

    You stated:

    "We were the first mainline church to ordain an African-American (1785), a woman (1853) and an openly gay pastor (1972)."

    When two out of three "acomplishments" of a denomination are clearly anti-biblical, one should quickly begin looking for a genuine, Bible-following Christian church rather than brag about its errors.

  • Yeah, Hjordes.

  • kenneth barnes

    The church is the body of christ, and its doctrine is 100% the word of God. Religion is mans ideas about what he thinks the Bible says. God treats all races the same and the Church should do the same. Their is enough discontent in the world without promoting more. If God says that something is wrong it should not be allowed in Church, such as Gay ministers. I have several gay friends and do not say what they are doing is right. I tell them what God says and love them.

    God is not a God of chance he knew from the beginning what the end was going to be and everyting that is happening now is what will bring the most people to the believing faith in Him. It says in the Bible that we are suppose to follow the commandments to show are love for Him, and all people.

  • "Our unity is not dependent upon uniform agreement, but in our shared allegiance to Jesus Christ."

    What about agreement with God and his word. My church is not perfect. I will admit that. But as soon as a church is more interested in including all ideas, and not focusing on God's ideas, they are serving themselves and not God.

    Jesus aid 'I and the Father are one' John 10-30. Logically you can't have 'allegiance to Jesus Christ' and not to all of God's word.

    God's word is still valid. Jesus stated this:

    Mat 5:17

    "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

    Mat 5:18

    "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

    Mat 5:19

    "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

    Allowing a church to do what ever the people want and not what God wants through his word, is a church based on people, not God.

    Just because you put up a church, does not mean you are doing good. It is a building until people have true fellowship with God. It is what is preached inside that church that God will judge you on. There are many people in this world that put up a very fancy building and say it is for god. Then they speak hate and murder in the building. The hate spoken by Jeremiah Wright in that building is not far from the hate spoken in most mosques. Maybe that is why Barack Obama felt at home in that church.

    1 Corinthians 16-14 Do everything in love.

    I Pray for the people that are being led astray.

  • Obama's speach:

    I know this is a little off subject, but if it were not for Oboma going to that hate filled church, this discussion would not be.

    He said, "We all have heard our pastor say things that we strongly disagree with".

    No! If my paster said something I "strongly disagree with", he would not be my pastor. No one was keeping him there. The only reason a person would not say something against wrong preaching is because he is to week to stand up for what is right, or he agrees with it. Either way, that is not a good leader for all people.

  • Sigh …

    John, I commend your effort to bring people up to speed on this. I stand by my previous comment, that it's interesting how many people have declared themselves experts on Jeremiah Wright from the little clips they've seen from his sermons.

    Ingrid, I'm with you on everything but the Peeps. I just don't think I can back you on liking the Peeps … but I digress.

    You're right. No one thinks that Chinatown is an display of Chinese bigotry. To a major extent, we white folk can say the same thing without having to use the same words. For example, I live in New Hampshire. If I'm supporting local businesses, I'm pretty much supporting white-owned businesses, because I think that there are only seven African-Americans in the whole state. Having said that … my church focuses its missions in certain areas. We have a huge commitment to Uganda. It's not that we have a problem with, say, Armenia. It's just not where we're sending missionaries.

    It certainly doesn't bother me if Trinity UCC chooses to identify itself with Africa, any more than it bothers me that my church chooses to make connections with the University of NH in our same town.

  • Ingrid, do you blog? If not you should. I would read you.

  • holy hell.

    so, i came across this doing research for an essay on progressive Christian denominations, and i have to say that it’s a little disappointing to find Sally Kern sympathizers alive and well.

    i love the Bible quoters. Right. so, i bet all of you who know it so well (and whose churches abide by all of the laws) cover your heads when you pray. well, i should specify. the women should be doing that. now, now, now. not so fast, fundamentalists. i know what you’re going to say “we don’t follow all that old testament stuff; Jesus said we don’t have to anymore.”

    well, sorry your conservative pastors never pointed this one out to you, but that’s from 1 Timothy (New Testament. your bad).

    i’m sure you’ll just explain that one away because it’s not convenient for your cause. but, consider this just for a second. instead of trying to win for your side, actually think about how much of scripture you yourself have read. then think about this one simple flaw i have pointed out in your upstanding, word of God practicing church ideals, then think of historical inaccuracies, the fact that Jesus is four completely different people in the four gospels, that much of New Testament quotations from the Jewish Bible are taken out of context to suit the authors needs…and then pray about it. because, i’m not here to tell you that God isn’t real or even that Jesus wasn’t Him. but, people who supposedly worship Him need to quit idolizing that written-by-the-hand-of-man book. the people who penned the Bible were doing the best they could with what they had. they loved God, they believed in Jesus the Christ, his death and resurrection (New Testament specific), but they didn’t have it all figured out. one only needs to point to simple errors in the ‘facts’ to see that the Bible is not the inerrant word of God.

    God wouldn’t have Jesus born in two different years, would he?

    why be more interested in being right than loving God’s people? and, while we’re on it, don’t say a word about Pastor Wright’s supposed ‘outrageous’ comments unless you have listened to each and every sermon those quotations were lifted from (for political propaganda, i might add) and understand the context. then you can come to whatever *educated* conclusion you like. but forming ideas from 24 news station feeds is never the best idea.