We, the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, representing more than 80,000 members and clergy in the state of Georgia express support for our clergy colleague, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright Jr., retired pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ. Rev. Wright is a renowned religious scholar, nurturing pastor and outstanding preacher. He built Trinity from a small flock of eighty to a grand congregation of 8,000 members. Our friend and fellow minister of the gospel has been vilified in the national media for practicing the Great Commission to go ye preach and baptize in my name. Indeed, Rev. Wright has received untold criticism for bringing souls to Christ, the very thing that he was specifically ordained to do.
We repudiate the irresponsible and shameful behavior of the national media for replaying and sensationalizing Rev. Wright’s words out of context simply to accommodate a salacious sound bite. Quite frankly, African Americans articulate and use language differently than whites by juxtaposing words to paint indelible psychological pictures. For example, in the overplayed sound bite, Rev. Wright was not cursing America or its people. Rather, he was pointing out historical and modern day incidents of racial intolerance or violence that were both heinous and damnable.
From the outset it must be understood that the charges of racism against Rev. Wright are simply false, as it is doubtful that the United Church of Christ, a white denomination, would have appointed him to pastor one of its churches. For us in the A.M.E. Church, and indeed African-American clergy, controversy is to be expected as we preach a liberation theology that condemns any effort to persecute human beings.
In fact, our faith compels us to honor God by confronting injustice whenever and wherever it occurs. Slavery, segregation and apartheid were acceptable to society, but to us these disgraceful practices deserved denunciation and protest. We willingly did so and our acts of defiance were defined as controversial by whites. Obviously, the two races viewed these peculiar institutions through different lenses.
To A.M.E.s, as well as other African Americans, the church was and remains a multiplex of activities anchored by worship but inclusive of educational, health, employment and recreational pursuits. Traditionally for the black community, church is an extension of home where much time is spent in daily activity not specifically related to worship. This practice is unlike the larger community, whose members often reserve their time in church strictly for worship.
More profoundly, we laud the senator’s unflinching honesty (a rare commodity in presidential politics) as well as his leadership and great courage in illuminating the real and painful truth of race in America. Sen. Obama boldly placed the issue of race squarely on the table for further discussion and as an impetus to accomplish the kind of change that he has espoused throughout the Democratic presidential campaign.
William P. DeVeaux
Sixth Episcopal District
The African Methodist Episcopal Church