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Shocker: Rev. Wright Isn’t Retiring After All

From the one time news magazine, Time:

The Unretirement of Reverend Wright

By Steven Gray/Chicago

Wednesday, Jun. 04, 2008

When Sen. Barack Obama severed ties with his Chicago church, most political observers saw the move as a way for the candidate to insulate himself from the controversies stirred by its retiring pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. But Trinity United Church of Christ does not have that kind of insulation. According to sources within Trinity, Wright, 66, who began the process of retirement two years ago, is resisting fully relinquishing his duties as senior pastor, hanging on to power in the church he helped build.

Wright was officially to have stepped down last Sunday, June 1. And from the pulpit at 7:30 a.m. that day, Wright’s hand-picked successor, the Rev. Otis Moss III, preached what should have been his first sermon as senior pastor of Trinity, one of the Chicago’s largest congregations and among the most influential religious institutions in America. Instead, on church bulletins on June 1, Moss was identified simply as “pastor” rather than “senior pastor,” even as Wright assumed the title “pastor emeritus.” Indeed, Trinity members familiar with the developments say that on May 27, Moss was summoned to the church’s massive brown sanctuary for a meeting that included Wright, several church board members and other senior leaders. According to those sources, Moss, 37, expected the meeting to finalize transition plans. Instead, Wright suggested the board merely declare Moss “senior pastor-elect” because the younger cleric needed “supervision” — effectively ensuring Wright remains Trinity’s preacher-in-chief. Wright’s essential argument hinges on a technicality: Moss is an ordained Baptist minister who has yet to be fully ordained in the United Church of Christ, the predominantly white protestant denomination of which the roughly 8,500-member Trinity is the largest congregation…

According to Trinity members familiar with the situation, after the May 27 meeting, Moss was ordered to tell the first person he hired — his head of communications — that she could no longer serve in the paid pastoral staff position. At least one other Trinity staffer has also been relieved of her duties in recent days. One source familiar with the situation said of Wright and the dismissals, “He doesn’t have to run it by the board.”

Sunday June 1 lacked the fanfare that often marks the official start of a pastor’s tenure. In fact, Wright didn’t even show up, for reasons church officials have so far declined to explain. From the pulpit on Sunday, Moss didn’t address the unseen drama, and later that evening he left for a vacation. “He has inherited this mess,” one Moss supporter observes, “and his priority is to help a congregation heal and move forward. Hopefully Wright will let him do that.” “The church is splitting,” says one Trinity member. “It’s sad, because this is a case of the older leader not being prepared to pass the mantle to the new leadership, and all that the new leadership represents.”

Church officials have been evasive if not obstreperous in clarifying the precise timelines for the transition from Wright to Moss. Trinity’s spokeswoman, Donna Hammond-Miller, responded to questions on the matter by e-mailing a reporter the church’s already widely circulated response to the Obama family’s departure. Pressed further on Sunday morning in between church services, Hammond-Miller said: “Those questions won’t be answered at this time.” When asked to help clarify points for the sake of accuracy, Hammond-Miller responded, “That’s your problem, not mine.” When queried by TIME again on Wednesday on the same issues, Hammond-Miller said, “They’re not responding to those questions. That’s the pastor’s choice.”

Officials at the United Church of Christ’s national headquarters in Cleveland are aware of the leadership tension at Trinity. However, they say, individual U.C.C. churches are autonomous and the national body can do little to intervene. Barbara Powell, a U.C.C. headquarters spokeswoman, noted that “Trinity didn’t follow the normal U.C.C. guidelines for the [pastoral] search” (Wright handpicked Moss, apparently without a formal search committee), but said it was hard to imagine that Moss wouldn’t successfully complete the ordination process…

Shades of Vladimir Putin.

Still, how hilarious. And yet so typical.

One wonders if there might not be another factor in all of this. Barack Obama.

We have constantly tried to correct people who claimed the Reverend Doctor retired back in February. That was near the start of the primary season, and not long after his dis-invitation from Barack Obama.

In the official accounts, he just went on “sabbatical” until his “retirement” at the end of May.

At the time we suspected Mr. Wright he figured Mr. Obama have won or lost the nomination by May, and he wouldn’t be a factor.

And lo and behold.

(Thanks to Bohemianwaxwing for the heads up.)

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, June 5th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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