(Florida International University)- The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright preached a sermon at the Church of the Open Door on Sunday and he got rave reviews from some of the 300 or so people packing the sanctuary.
The worshipers, many of whom didn't belong to the Liberty City church, seemed ready for the controversial pastor's fiery style and provocative statements, greeting him with applause, vocal affirmations and, at times, laughter.
Wright spoke to them about apathy, even in the church, challenging them to “shout out” against hate and injustice, while reassuring them that God does not want to “lay you out, but to lift you up.”
Lee Black, president of the Maryland-based Claude D. Pepper Foundation and a self-avowed long-time Wright fan, commented, “He is an inspiration and upstanding pastor.” Black was in Miami for a funeral and came to the church to hear Wright. “I think he is one of our champions in the black community.”
Wright, pastor-emeritus of Trinity Church in Chicago, drew national attention during then Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's Presidential campaign after a post-9/11 sermon in which he said the attack was a response to foreign policy blunders by the United States.
Wright is often criticized for other statements in sermons and speeches that some see as racist, but others see as blunt and honest. He says he is usually taken out of context.
His sermon in Liberty City marking Amistad Day at the church was not among those.
Sydney Herring, 16, a student at Archbishop Curley High School, said Wright only wants to say “God loves everyone and he wants everyone to come to Him and be with Him.”
“He's a very good preacher and he touches people without even knowing it,” Sydney said. “It's not his fault that other people take things in the wrong way.”
Aneida Wright is not a member of the Church of the Open Door, but she came to hear the sermon at the invitation of friends who are.
“He told the truth as it should be told,” said the North Miami Beach resident. “I draw my own conclusions about people. I think he is a very charismatic, very bright, man.”
Not everyone agreed.
A handful of protestors outside the church said Wright preaches his own brand of racism.
“We want to expose the hate that Rev. Wright has spewed in the past,” said Joe Kaufman, chairman of the Broward-based Americans Against Hate. “Whether it’s a church or not, he should be exposed.”
But churchgoers wanted not to expose Wright, but to be exposed to him.
“He was just what I expected,” said Brad Bowing, a retired scientist who lives in Perrine. “He was great.”
Megan Wright and Jennifer Moreno contributed to this report.
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