Trinity United Church of Christ


Trinity United Church of Christ

Trinity United Church of Christ is a predominantly black church with more than 8,500 members, located on the southeast side of Chicago.cite news |first=Diana |last=Keogh |title=Chicago's Trinity UCC prepares to welcome new pastor for new generation |url=http://www.ucc.org/ucnews/octnov07/chicagos-trinity-ucc.html |work=United Church News |publisher=United Church of Christ |date=2007-10-01 |accessdate=2008-04-30 ] It is the largest church affiliated with the United Church of Christ, a predominantly white Christian denomination with roots in Congregationalism, which branched from American Puritanism. [Marty, Martin E. "Keeping the Faith at Trinity United Church of Christ". "Sightings" [http://marty-center.uchicago.edu/sightings/archive_2007/0402.shtml Available online] .]

In early 2008, as part of their presidential election coverage, news media outlets and political commentators brought Trinity to national attention when controversial excerpts of sermons by the church's 36-year pastor Jeremiah Wright were broadcast to highlight Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's relationship with Wright and the church. Obama responded with a speech, "A More Perfect Union", which diminished some of the criticism of the relationship.cite news |first=Ken |last=Dilanian |title=Defenders say Wright has love, righteous anger for USA |url=http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-03-18-obamawright_N.htm |work=USA Today |date=2008-03-18 |accessdate=2008-04-02 ]

The church's early history coincided with the American civil rights movement, subsequent death of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the turmoil that entered the movement after his death. During that tumultuous period, a great influx of radical Black Muslim groups had begun to headquarter in Chicago, and Trinty sought to recontextualize Christianity through black liberation theology so as to win back Blacks who were being taught by radical black Islamic leaders that it was impossible to be both Black and Christian. Trinity is most known today for its social programs on behalf of the disadvantaged, both nationally and internationally, although in its earliest days such outreach did not even figure into its mission. [Nelson, Hart M.; Anne Kusener Nelson (1975). Black Church in the 1960s. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 74. B000H1VXOY] [ [http://www.newsweek.com/id/135392 Why Oprah Winfrey Left Rev. Wright's Church | Newsweek Periscope | Newsweek.com ] ] cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=79 ]

Background and history

ocial and religious context

Patterns of migration among both blacks and whites are an important part of the social context into which Trinity was founded. Another is the threat that radical Black nationalism and Black Islam posed to Christianity's influence among Chicago blacks, as well as blacks nationwide. As these movements gained ground among Chicago blacks, Trinity sought to turn the attention of blacks back to Christianity.

1910 through 1940s

Beginning around 1910, The Great Migration of African Americans occurred as many thousands of blacks migrated from the south northward. A great many settled on Chicago's southside. When they arrived, they brought with them the forms of Christianity they had practiced in the South. As elsewhere in the United States, Chicago blacks of the time faced serious discrimination in typically every area of their existence.

In the early 1930s, Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad moved his embroiled religion's headquarters from Detroit to Chicago. Mixing elements of the Bible and the Qur'an, Elijah Muhammad taught that Africans were the earth's first and most important people. He prophesied that a time was coming when African Americans would be fully vindicated, released from their various oppressions, and brought into full freedom within their own geographical state. For this to actualize, however, Elijah Muhammad taught that blacks had to radically separate from all whites. In addition, he proclaimed that blacks needed to live a moral life.

By the 1940s, the Nation of Islam's radical message had drawn in thousands of Chicago's blacks, many who had converted from one of the forms of Christianity their forebearers brought southward to Chicago (see Trinity in comparative perspective, below, for a discussion of the various forms). [Lincoln, C. Eric. "The Black Muslims of America". 3rd ed., 1994.]

1950s through 1960

Another of the contextual backdrops of Trinity is a pattern of migration that occurred in Chicago during the 1950s and 60s, when middle-class whites began vacating urban areas for surrounding suburbs. As whites in southern Chicago migrated in large numbers to suburbs, upwardly mobile blacks from the "Black Belt" of Chicago's South Side migrated in, while non-mobile blacks remained in the South Side.cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=74-75 ] cite book |last=Lamb |first=Charles M. |title=Housing Segregation in Suburban America since 1960: Presidential and Judicial Politics |date=2005 |publisher=Cambridge University Press |location=Cambridge |isbn=0-5215-4827-6 ] [Manning, Christopher (2005), "African Americans", Encyclopedia of Chicago. [http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/27.html Available online.] ]

Meanwhile, by 1960, the Nation of Islam national spokesperson Malcolm X had founded "Mr. Muhammad Speaks in Chicago" to help the continued spread of the Nation of Islam message. The newspaper achieved a circulation of over 600,000, making it one of the most prominent black American newspapers of the time. By this time, Nation of Islam ideology held a quite significant sway over Chicago blacks. [Lincoln, C. Eric. "The Black Muslims of America". 3rd ed., 1994.] [Muhammad, Elijah. The Fall of America, 1973.] [Muhammad, Elijah. "Message to the Blackman in America", 1965.]

Founding

It was within the above social context that Trinity came into being.

1961 through 1966: under Kenneth B. Smith

Trinity marks its beginning on December 3, 1961, when twelve middle-class black families, most who were descendants of migrants to Chicago during The Great Migration of African Americans, met for worship in a Chicago elementary school gymnasium. Prior to the recent migration of whites to the suburbs, blacks had found it extremely difficult to move into middle-class surroundings in Chicago due to segregated housing patterns and homeownership discrimination (also see Racial steering). At the time of the 3 December meeting, Chicago's Halsted Street marked "the color line".cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=74-75 ] cite journal|last=Speller|first=Julia Michelle|title=Unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian: One congregation's quest for meaning and belonging|journal=Ph.D. dissertation|pages=8-9|publisher=The University of Chicago|location=Illinois|accessdate=2008-04-04|laysource=Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database.] cite book |last=Lamb |first=Charles M. |title=Housing Segregation in Suburban America since 1960: Presidential and Judicial Politics |date=2005 |publisher=Cambridge University Press |location=Cambridge |isbn=0-5215-4827-6 ] Trinity's first pastor, Kenneth B. Smith, had been appointed by the Chicago Congregational Christian Association of the United Church of Christ (formed only in 1957) to expand the denomination toward southern Chicago, where blacks had recently begun to migrate from the "Black Belt" of Chicago's South Side to the more southerly urban areas whites had recently abandoned for the suburbs. The expressed vision of the Association was to raise up a church for middle-class blacks, who would later merge with a congregation of suburban whites and have white and black co-pastors; in other words, an explicitly integrationist aim.cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=75 ] Two successful African-American Congregational churches, Good Shepherd and Park Manor, had been started earlier in the 20th century some distance to the north in the older South Side neighborhoods, so officials were probably expecting Trinity to emulate those previous developments. Smith came to the new church project, in fact, from an associate pastorate at Park Manor.

Although the vision was bold for the time, and although a similar vision had been followed by other pockets of blacks both inside and outside of Chicago, it at the same time produced apprehension within Trinity's upwardly mobile blacks, since some blacks in Chicago had had their homes burned for transgressing the color line. Moreover, the vision failed to address the many blacks who were still unable to reach upward mobility—those still on the South Side, those in the projects on the other side of Halsted Street, blacks who did not figure into the Association's vision because they were not considered "the right kind of black people". Considerably later, the first African American conference minister of the United Church of Christ, the Rev. Dr. W. Sterling Cary, discussed the Association's disinterest in more detail. He explained, "Historically, the Association made special efforts to seek out 'high potential' churches within the black community," which he said were understood as groups of blacks likely willing to be culturally assimilated into the forms and functions of worship of the Chicago Congregational Christian Association, with its strong Puritan heritage. American religion historian Julia Speller summarizes, "It was this racial reality that informed the planting of Trinity on the South Side of Chicago." [Roof, Wade Clark, "Race and Residence in American Cities," "The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science," vol 441 (Jan. 1979), 6-7.]

With the church's vision still maturing, Kenneth B. Smith remained as pastor and led the still growing congregation, while noting two things. Firstly, he said the church's affiliation with a white denomination provided his congregants with a sense of unity and purpose within the mainline religious tradition of America (see Origins of the United Church of Christ). Secondly, the congregation began to find a kindred spirit with the denomination's commitment to justice and equality, as congregant activism began to emerge. Smith pointed to the march from Montgomery to Selma in 1965 under Martin Luther King, Jr. as an event that fueled that activism, noting how his congregants made picket signs and joined a Chicago area march in symbolic solidarity with southern blacks. However, Speller notes that the congregation's concern for the voting rights of southern blacks "stood in stark contrast to their obvious blind spot of the Association's position on church growth among African Americans in Chicago—one that supported only middle-class churches".cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=76-77 ]

This period of the church culminated when plans to merge with a white congregation fell through—"whites were not much interested in integration" at the time, as Jason Byassee [Byassee is an editor at "The Christian Century".] notes—and the black congregation moved into its first church building in 1966. Seating two-hundred, it was located among the growing community of southern Chicago's middle-class blacks, east of the color line. Meanwhile, the Association continued its push for the church to focus ministry toward middle-class blacks. According to Speller, however, this foundational focus began to crack deeply when two things occurred: the resignation of Kenneth B. Smith for a ministry position elsewhere, and a significant decline in membership that seemed inexplicable.cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=78 ] cite journal | author=Jason Byassee| title=A visit to Chicago's Trinity UCC Aricentric church| journal=The Christian Century| year=2007| issue=May 29| page=18-23]

After leaving Trinity, Smith would go on to become pastor of Good Shepherd Church (above) and president of Chicago Theological Seminary.

1966 to 1971: under Willie J. Jamerson

Trinity's second pastor arrived a short time later, just as the U.S civil rights movement reached its peak. The Rev. Willie J. Jamerson, who came from Howard Congregational Church (UCC) in Nashville, Tennessee (a church founded by the American Missionary Association), brought "a desire to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable", while "perhaps being more drawn to the role of prophet than that of priest", as he said, although Jamerson wound up doing much more comforting as a priest than afflicting as a prophet. As Jamerson recounted, the church continued its decline in membership, due to the constriction of vision that resulted from what he described as the church's continued major purpose to affirm the middle-class Congregationalism of its members. According to Speller, this foundational focus experienced another significant crack when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, which subsequently brought many changes within black communities—another of Trinity's contextual backdrops.cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=78 ]

As Speller explains, "The failure of the civil rights movement to usher in an era of genuine integration and harmony between the races turned into a search for an alternative experience of purpose and belonging for many African Americans."cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=78 ] Corresponding with this search, a small rift began to form among Trinity's congregants, one that was also occurring in other predominantly black churches in the U.S. at the time. As the influence of the civil rights movement began to diminish in wake of King's assassination, the Black Power movement rushed in to fill the void, and some blacks, including a few at Trinity, became attracted to the validation the movement gave to their life and religious experiences. Other blacks, however, including most at Trinity, felt that a strategy of gradualism would eventuate in an America that honored achievements regardless of race. According to Speller, the majority of Trinity's congregants sided with gradualist notions, and "held tenaciously to their Congregational tradition, finding unity in their connection to American Protestantism and purpose in the lifestyle of black 'middle-classness'."cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=79 ]

By 1972, however, Trinity's membership had dwindled from its peak of 341 (in 1968-69) down to 259 members (perhaps 100 of them active) ["Yearbooks of the United Church of Christ, 1968-72"] , and no one could pinpoint the cause. Jamerson soon resigned to take a position as a schoolteacher, and Trinity was faced with possibly closing its doors.cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=80 ]

1971 to 1972: under Reuben A. Sheares II

The church instead opted to bring on the Rev. Reuben A. Sheares II as interim pastor. [A scholarship in Sheares II's name continues to be offered to members of the United Church of Christ. [http://www.tucc.org/youth.htm] Sheares's son, Reuben A. Sheares III, had earlier became an interventional cardiologist. [http://www.capitolcitycardiology.com/reuben_sheares.html] .] According to Speller, Sheares's brief tenure with Trinity marked an important shift in the congregation's sense of purpose. Together with Trinity's remaining leaders, Sheares sought to discover the reasons behind Trinity's dramatic decline in membership and then work a remedy. As recounted by a key Trinity lay leader at the time, Vallmer E. Jordan, the small core of leaders concluded that "for years we had prided ourselves on being a middle-class congregation within a mainline denomination, but suddenly the values within the black community had shifted. Aspirations for integration and assimilation were being replaced by those of black pride and separation."cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=80 ] Byassee fills in details by pointing out that Chicago had long since become an organizing center for militant black religious groups like The Nation of Islam and The Black Hebrew Israelites, who strenuously argued that "black" and "Christian" were contradictory terms. Many blacks had been leaving Christianity as a result.cite journal | author=Jason Byassee| title=A visit to Chicago's Trinity UCC Aricentric church| journal=The Christian Century| year=2007| issue=May 29| page=18-23]

Trinity's leaders had thus discovered the reasons for its decline in membership. As a congregation, Trinity would thus need to inaugurate a "shift" in how it viewed both itself and its mission—they needed to let blacks know, both those inside and outside its walls, that Christianity was not at all just a religion for whites. To begin this change, Sheares coined the motto "Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian".cite journal|last=Speller|first=Julia Michelle|title=Unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian: One congregation's quest for meaning and belonging|journal=Ph.D. dissertation|pages=2|publisher=The University of Chicago|location=Illinois|accessdate=2008-04-04|laysource=Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database.] cite book |last=Lamb |first=Charles M. |title=Housing Segregation in Suburban America since 1960: Presidential and Judicial Politics |date=2005 |publisher=Cambridge University Press |location=Cambridge |isbn=0-5215-4827-6 ] Contextualizing the motto, Speller, herself black, informs that shame about being black has been "part and parcel of the black experience in America", and that blacks have historically hid their shame behind a variety of coping strategies and behaviors.cite journal|last=Speller|first=Julia Michelle|title=Unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian: One congregation's quest for meaning and belonging|journal=Ph.D. dissertation|pages=20-21|publisher=The University of Chicago|location=Illinois|accessdate=2008-04-04|laysource=Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database.] Martin E. Marty, an emeritus professor of religious history, further explains, "For Trinity, being 'unashamedly black' does not mean being 'anti-white.' [...] Think of the concept of 'unashamedly': tucked into it is the word 'shame'." Underlying the idea, according to Marty, is a diagnosis "of 'shame', 'being shamed', and 'being ashamed' as debilitating legacies of slavery and segregation in society and church." Marty also explains that the Afrocentrism contained in the statement "should not be more offensive than that synagogues should be 'Judeo-centric' or that Chicago's Irish parishes be 'Celtic-centric'." [Marty, Martin E. "Prophet and Pastor". "The Chronicle of Higher Education", 11 April 2008. [http://chronicle.com/free/v54/i30/30b00101.htm Available online.] [http://www.webcitation.org/5WcYZkS9u Archived.] ] Speller informs that the motto "has remained as a reminder of not only who [Trinitarians] are but Whose they are, continuing to emphasize both meaning and belonging".cite journal | author=Jason Byassee| title=A visit to Chicago's Trinity UCC Aricentric church| journal=The Christian Century| year=2007| issue=May 29| page=18-23] cite journal|last=Speller|first=Julia Michelle|title=Unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian: One congregation's quest for meaning and belonging|journal=Ph.D. dissertation|pages=2|publisher=The University of Chicago|location=Illinois|accessdate=2008-04-04|laysource=Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database.]

In addition to Sheares's new motto, Jordan crafted a new mission statement that encapsulated the church's new vision to be

a source of spiritual sustenance, security, and inspiration; that those participating in our spiritual-social process [may] be strengthened in their commitment...to serve as instruments of God and church in our communities and the world, confronting, transforming and eliminating those thing in our culture that lead to the dehumanization of persons and tend to perpetuate their psychological enslavement.

As Trinity sought a new pastor to lead growth, they gave the mission statement to each applicant.cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=80-81 ]

1972 to early 2008: under Jeremiah Wright

Jeremiah Wright, the son of a long-tenured Philadelphia Baptist minister, interviewed for the Trinity pastorate on December 31, 1971. Jordan recalls that Wright exuded excitement and vision for the church's new mission statement, and that Wright's response to the question "How do you see the role of the Black Church in the black struggle?" indicated he was the only possible candidate for Trinity. With the church also impressed with Wright's educational credentials—Wright held graduate degrees in English studies and Divinity and was studying for a doctorate in religious history—he was shortly confirmed as the new pastor.cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8]

Context and challenges

Speller points out that Wright's arrival at Trinity coincided with the height of the U.S. Black Consciousness Revolution (also see South African Black Consciousness Movement) and additionally contends that Wright was keenly aware of the challenges that this deeply racialized context presented to Trinity.cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=81 ] cite journal|last=Speller|first=Julia Michelle|title=Unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian: One congregation's quest for meaning and belonging|journal=Ph.D. dissertation|pages=8-9|publisher=The University of Chicago|location=Illinois|accessdate=2008-04-04|laysource=Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database.] During graduate school Wright, as Bayassee notes, argued strenuously against radical black Islamic groups who had been drawing blacks away from Christianity by asserting that the religion was inherently racist and only for whites.cite journal | author=Jason Byassee| title=A visit to Chicago's Trinity UCC Aricentric church| journal=The Christian Century| year=2007| issue=May 29| page=18-23] To recontextualize the Christian message for the new context and time in which Wright perceived the church itself in, Wright, the author claims, anticipated that he would need to co-opt the positive elements of the Black Power message, while rejecting its philosophies of separation and black superiority—an idea around which a larger Christian theological movement had been forming, as evidenced by a full-page "New York Times" ad entitled "Black Power" run in November 1967 by the National Committee of Negro Churchmen, and "Black Theology and Black Power" published in 1969 by James H. Cone. ["Black Power in the Pulpit", "TIME Magazine". 17 Nov 1967. [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,844106,00.html Available online.] ] [Jacqueline S. Mithun, "Black Power and Community Change: An Assessment", "Journal of Black Studies", Vol. 7, No. 3 (Mar., 1977), pp. 263-280.] [Livingston, James C. Fiorenza, F., Coakley, S. "et al" (2006). "Modern Christian Thought: The Twentieth Century", Fortress Press; 2 ed., ISBN 0-8006-3796-8]

Change

Speller describes how the psychological and spiritual shift at Trinity quickly resulted in changes at Trinity.

Youth choir

The first change occurred in late 1972 when Trinity's youth lobbied for a greater role in the church. Under a dynamic new choir director the youth brought in, they led musical worship using gospel music (also see Urban contemporary gospel) for the first time, while incorporating dramatic visual props. As Speller describes it, the youth choir "ushered in a new day at Trinity Church, and through their music they ignited the flame that would burn off the dross of black shame to reveal the refined gem of self-love." However, with call and response increasing and the "Pilgrim Hymnal" no longer in favor, some of Trinity's congregants left because of what Wright described as "fear of change—change in the style of worship but, more importantly, change in the kind of members that would desire to join our church."cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=82-83 ] Wright, Jeremiah, "Doing Black Theology in the Black Church". In Thomas, Linda E. (ed.) (2004), "Living Stones in the Household of God", Fortress Press, Minneapolis, p. 16, ISBN 0-8066-3627-9]

From social enhancement to God-consciousness

As Wright philosophized of this period some thirty years later, 'Having a witness "among" the poor and having a ministry "to" the poor is one thing, but making the poor folks members of your congregation is something else altogether." Wright further explained, "Failure to have the black poor at the table with you as equals means you are doing missionary work," while having "poor black folks" who "sit down at the table as equals" means you are "serious about talking or doing [...] black theology."Wright, Jeremiah, "Doing Black Theology in the Black Church". In Thomas, Linda E. (ed.) (2004), "Living Stones in the Household of God", Fortress Press, Minneapolis, p. 16-17, ISBN 0-8066-3627-9] As Speller explains, Trinity's congregants "began to slowly move away from the concept of church as a place to enhance and validate their social position to one that appreciated the church as a place for spiritual formation." In sum, Trinity began to more fully move away from its earlier purpose surrounding "middle-classness" to one where devotion to God and the poor took much greater prominence.cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=83 ]

God has smiled on us and freed us up to be God's people—unshackled by stereotypes and the barriers of assimilation, unshackled by the fear of joining in the struggle for liberation, and unshackled by the stigmas, defeats, or victories of the past. [God has freed us to be the Church in the world— [God's] Children! Black, Christian and proud of being created in [God's] image and being called by [God's] name.
Speller asserts that the statement indicates that Trinity had journeyed "from assimilation and fear to liberation and courage", and argues how the freedom expressed concerns a freedom "to be black" as a matter of cultural identity (also see Ethnic identity), and "to be Christian" as a matter of purpose and belonging to God.cite book |last=Speller |first=Julia |title=Walkin' the Talk: Keepin the Faith in Africentric Congregations |date=2005 |publisher=The Pilgrim Press |location=Cleveland |isbn=0-8298-1522-8 |pages=86 ]

From 1972 to early 2008, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was pastor of Trinity UCC.cite news | first= Manya | last= Brachear | title=Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.: Pastor inspires Obama's 'audacity' | date=January 21 2007 | url=http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/custom/religion/chi-070121-relig_wright,1,271630.story?cset=true&ctrack=1&page=1&coll=chi-religion-topheadlines | work =Chicago Tribune | accessdate=2008-03-23] cite web |url=http://www.corinthianbaptistchurch.org/jeremiah_a_wright_jr.htm |title=Jeremiah A Wright Jr |accessdate=2008-04-02 |work=Corinthian Baptist Church website ] cite web |url=http://www.tucc.org/pastor.htm |title=Pastor |accessdate=2008-04-02 |work=Trinity United Church of Christ website ] In February 2008, Wright retired, and the Rev. Otis Moss III became Trinity's pastor. [cite web |url=http://www.tucc.org/pastoral_staff.htm |title=Pastoral Staff |accessdate=2008-04-02 |work=Trinity United Church of Christ website ] [cite news |first=Margaret |last=Ramirez |title=Barack Obama spiritual mentor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., preaches last sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ |url=http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-wright_11feb11,1,4431179.story |work=Chicago Tribune |date=2008-02-11 |accessdate=2008-04-04 ]

Weekly broadcasts of the church's Sunday service are carried across the US on TV One [cite web |url=http://www.tvoneonline.com/shows/show.asp?sid=468 |title=Shows |accessdate=2008-04-02 |work=TV One Online] on Sundays at 7:30 a.m. EST.

Trinity and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright were profiled by correspondent Roger Wilkins in [http://www.medill.northwestern.edu/alumni/hallofachievement.aspx?catid=469 Sherry] [http://www.pbs.org/weta/crossroads/about/show_gangs_of_iraq_producers.html Jones] ' documentary "Keeping the Faith" broadcast as the June 16 1987 episode of the PBS series "Frontline with Judy Woodruff". [cite video |people=Jones, Sherry (producer & director), Wilkins, Roger (correspondent), Woodruff, Judy (anchor) |month2=June 16, |year2=1987 |title=FRONTLINE: reports: Keeping the Faith |url=http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/programs/info/514.html |publisher=PBS Video |location=Alexandria, Va. |oclc=18127027, OCLC [http://worldcat.org/oclc/21357978 21357978] , OCLC [http://worldcat.org/oclc/18126496 18126496] , OCLC [http://worldcat.org/oclc/42508237 42508237]
cite news |author=Ruth, Daniel |title=Chicago minister exalts `Faith' |url=http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=CSTB&p_theme=cstb&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&s_dispstring=(Chicago%20minister%20exalts)%20AND%20date(6/16/1987%20to%206/16/1987)&p_field_date-0=YMD_date&p_params_date-0=date:B,E&p_text_date-0=6/16/1987%20to%206/16/1987)&p_field_advanced-0=&p_text_advanced-0=(Chicago%20minister%20exalts)&xcal_numdocs=20&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&xcal_useweights=no |format=paid archive |work=Chicago Sun-Times |page=50 |date=June 16 1987
cite news |author=McBride, James |title=On leaving the ghetto |url=http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/washingtonpost/access/73827376.html?dids=73827376:73827376&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT |format=paid archive |work=The Washington Post |page=F3 |date=June 16 1987
cite news |title='Sunday morning worship America's most segregated hour' |work=Post-Tribune |page=4 |date=June 21 1987
]

Trinity in comparative perspective

Byassee argues that "African Americans have generated distinctly black forms of Christianity since they arrived on these [American] shores" and asserts that "the significance of these forms has been appreciated in mainline seminaries and churches for at least two generations."cite journal | author=Jason Byassee| title=A visit to Chicago's Trinity UCC Aricentric church| journal=The Christian Century| year=2007| issue=May 29| page=18-23] Speller has discussed the major interpretive frameworks into which black churches have been historically categorized by scholars, as well as several later ones. She does this to place Trinity within a broader understanding of the black church, and all Christian churches, and to trace Trinity's history of movement within several of the frameworks, while also discussing numerous of Trinity's ongoing struggles.cite journal|last=Speller|first=Julia Michelle|title=Unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian: One congregation's quest for meaning and belonging|journal=Ph.D. dissertation|pages=5-19|publisher=The University of Chicago|location=Illinois|accessdate=2008-04-04|laysource=Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database.] Byassee asserts that Trinity is well within the mainstream of the black church, and is remarkable in the mainline world only for its size and influence."cite journal | author=Jason Byassee| title=A visit to Chicago's Trinity UCC Aricentric church| journal=The Christian Century| year=2007| issue=May 29| page=18-23]

Speller opines that three interpretive models of black churches have predominated in scholarly literature from especially prior the 1960s: "The Assimilation Model", "The Isolation Model", and "The Compensatory Model".

The Assimilation Model

Black churches that have been explained as within the "The Assimilation Model" are those primarily composed of middle-class blacks motivated by a racially integrated society and who are willing to disassociate themselves from their ethnic identity to achieve this, as well as to avoid the stereotyped labels sometimes assigned to blacks by whites. This model has been described as the "demise of the black church for the public good of blacks."cite book |last=Nelson |first=Hart M. |coauthors=Anne Kusener Nelson |title=Black Church in the 1960s |date=1975 |publisher=University Press of Kentucky |location=Lexington |id=B000H1VXOY |pages=74 |quote=Cited in Speller, Julia Michelle (1996). "Unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian: One congregation's quest for meaning and belonging." Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Chicago, United States—Illinois, 8-9. Retrieved April 4 2008, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database.]

The Isolation Model

"The Isolation Model" category has been assigned to those black churches composed of primarily lower-class blacks who lack the optimism of middle-class blacks about societal integration between the races. Churches described as within this model hold to theologies that emphasize "other worldliness" and deemphasize social action within "this world."cite book |last=Nelson |first=Hart M. |coauthors=Anne Kusener Nelson |title=Black Church in the 1960s |date=1975 |publisher=University Press of Kentucky |location=Lexington |id=B000H1VXOY |pages=74 |quote=Cited in Speller, Julia Michelle (1996). "Unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian: One congregation's quest for meaning and belonging." Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Chicago, United States—Illinois, 8-9. Retrieved April 4 2008, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database.]

The Compensatory Model

"The Compensatory Model" has been a designation of black churches where congregants find acceptance, appreciation, and applause often denied them within dominant society. Motivation stems from a promise of achieving personal empowerment and recognition, i.e., congregants are "compensated" with improved self-esteem as their peers affirm their successes.cite book |last=Nelson |first=Hart M. |coauthors=Anne Kusener Nelson |title=Black Church in the 1960s |date=1975 |publisher=University Press of Kentucky |location=Lexington |id=B000H1VXOY |pages=74 |quote=Cited in Speller, Julia Michelle (1996). "Unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian: One congregation's quest for meaning and belonging." Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Chicago, United States—Illinois, 8-9. Retrieved April 4 2008, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database.]

The Ethnic Community-prophetic Model

Speller, following the research of Nelson and Nelson in the 1970s, notes how each of the above three models placed black churches within a reactive rather than a proactive mode. Finding that problematic, and unsatisfied that previous interpretive models accurately depicted black churches that emerged in the 1960s, Nelson and Nelson developed a fourth model, "The Ethnic Community-prophetic Model". Black churches that have been categorized as such are those that have been marked by blacks who spoke out and undertook activism against economic and political injustices from a heightened awareness of black pride and power.cite book |last=Nelson |first=Hart M. |coauthors=Anne Kusener Nelson |title=Black Church in the 1960s |date=1975 |publisher=University Press of Kentucky |location=Lexington |id=B000H1VXOY |pages=74 |quote=Cited in Speller, Julia Michelle (1996). "Unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian: One congregation's quest for meaning and belonging." Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Chicago, United States—Illinois, 8-9. Retrieved April 4 2008, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database.]

The Dialectical Model

In her discussion about Trinity, Speller argues for an additional model of the black church, "The Dialectical Model", developed by the late Duke University sociologist C. Eric Lincoln to explain certain black churches. Corrective to the earlier models by which black churches were susceptible to being rigidly stereotyped, and that barred them from being seen as societal change agents, Lincoln and Mamiya describe the model as holding in "dialectical tension" "the priestly and the prophetic; other-worldly versus this-worldly; universalism and particularism; communalism and privatism; the charismatic versus the bureaucratic and resistance versus accommodation." [Lincoln, C. Eric and Lawrence H. Mamiya (1990) "The Black Church in the African American Experience", Duke University Press, Durham, p. 12-15. Cited in Speller, Julia Michelle (1996). "Unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian: One congregation's quest for meaning and belonging." Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Chicago, United States—Illinois. Retrieved April 4 2008, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. P. 11-12.] Speller additionally argues that "The Dialectical Model" is mirrored in W. E. B. Du Bois's concept of "double consciousness". [Lincoln, C. Eric and Lawrence H. Mamiya (1990) "The Black Church in the African American Experience", Duke University Press, Durham, p. 11. Cited in Speller, Julia Michelle (1996). "Unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian: One congregation's quest for meaning and belonging." Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Chicago, United States—Illinois. Retrieved April 4 2008, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. P. 8-9.] Du Bois explained this dichotomy:

The evolution of Trinity

Speller asserts that Trinity in its history has evolved from the Assimilation Model under its pastors Kenneth B. Smith and Willie J. Jamerson, to the Compensatory Model under Reuben A. Sheares II and during the early years of Jeremiah Wright's tenure, and into the Ethnic Community-prophetic Model under Wright to embrace the Dialectical Model also under Wright. She states, however, that the church continues to struggle in varying degrees to balance the dialectic polarities described by Lincoln and Mamiya (see "The Dialectical Model", just above), and that the church's greatest challenge has been "mediating the tension between being black and Christian."cite journal|last=Speller|first=Julia Michelle|title=Unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian: One congregation's quest for meaning and belonging|journal=Ph.D. dissertation|pages=13-14|publisher=The University of Chicago|location=Illinois|accessdate=2008-04-04|laysource=Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database.] Any tensions are quite beside the point, though, for American political conservatives writing for partisan opinion journals, such as Kurtz in "National Review", who chide Trinity for daring to have made the first step from the Assimilation Model. [Stanley Kurtz, "The God of Black Power", "National Review", 19 May 2008.]

Controversy

In March 2008, the national news media publicized short excerpts of some of Wright's sermons in the context of a Trinity parishioner, Barack Obama, having become a leading candidate for the Presidency of the United States.cite news |first=Ken |last=Dilanian |title=Defenders say Wright has love, righteous anger for USA |url=http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-03-18-obamawright_N.htm |work=USA Today |date=2008-03-18 |accessdate=2008-04-02 ] cite news|url=http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23745283/|title=Obama's reaction to Wright too little, too late|publisher=MSNBC|date=March 21, 2008|author=Adubato, Steve] [cite news |url=http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24371827/ |title=Obama Strongly Denounces his ex-Pastor | publisher=MSNBC|date=2008-03-14|accessdate=2008-04-28|first=Alex|last=Johnson] The sermon excerpts were widely played and criticized in the media. Obama denounced the statements in question, but in the wake of continued questions about his relationship with Wright he gave a speech titled "A More Perfect Union", in which he sought to place Rev. Wright's comments in a historical and sociological context. In the speech, Obama again denounced Wright's remarks, but did not disown him as a person. The controversy began to fade, but was renewed in late April when Wright made a series of media appearances, including an interview on Bill Moyers Journal, a speech at the NAACP and a speech at the National Press Club. ["Listening to Rev. Wright" "OnPoint, 29 April 2008.] In the National Press Club appearance, Wright said that the criticism of his comments and theology was "an attack on the black church" and repeated controversial remarks echoing AIDS conspiracy theories and praising Louis Farrakhan. [cite news |first=Jeremiah |last=Wright |authorlink=Jeremiah Wright |title=Transcript: Rev. Wright at the National Press Club |url=http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/04/28/transcript-rev-wright-at-the-national-press-club/ |publisher=Fox News |date=2008-04-28 |accessdate=2008-05-06 ] After this, Obama spoke more forcefully against his former pastor, saying that he was "outraged" and "saddened" by his behavior and describing his comments as "a bunch of rants that aren't grounded in the truth." [ [http://www.usnews.com/usnews/politics/bulletin/bulletin_080430.htm Obama Says He Is Outraged By Wright's "Rants"] ] Trinity United Church has through its years of operation had several high profile members, including Oprah Winfrey, who was a member from 1984 until 1986. One of the major reasons for her leaving the congregation was Jeremiah Wright's "more incendiary sermons." [ [http://www.newsweek.com/id/135392 Why Oprah Winfrey Left Rev. Wright's Church | Newsweek Periscope | Newsweek.com ] ] On May 31, 2008, Obama resigned his membership in the church. [cite news | url=http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/05/31/obama-resigns-from-controversial-church/ | title =Obama resigns from controversial church | publisher=CNN | accessdate=2008-05-31 | |date=May 31 2008]

Father Pfleger

On May 25, 2008, Father Michael Pfleger gave a sermon at Trinity where he mocked Senator Hillary Clinton, one of Barack Obama's opponents for the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination. Pfleger said, "I really believe that she just always thought, 'This is mine. I'm Bill's wife. I'm white, and this is mine. I just gotta get up and step into the plate.' Then out of nowhere came, 'Hey, I'm Barack Obama,' and she said, 'Oh, damn! Where did you come from? I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show!'" He then pretended to wipe tears from his face, a reference to Senator Clinton's emotional speech before the New Hampshire primary, and added, "She wasn't the only one crying. There was a whole lot of white people crying." [cite web |url=http://weblogs.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/blog/2008/05/another_video_from_obamas_chur.html |title=Another video from Obama's church |accessdate=2008-10-10 |publisher=Chicago Tribune |coauthors=John McCormick and Manya A.Brachear |date=May 29, 2008]

References

External links

* [http://www.tucc.org Official website]
* [http://www.youtube.com/user/TRINITYCHGO Official YouTube channel]


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