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YDS alumni in midst of debate over Obama's church

John ThomasOtis Moss III ’95 M.Div., who is succeeding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, is fending off criticisms of the controversial church, the home congregation of presidential candidate Barack Obama. John Thomas ’75 M.Div. is also involved in the debate, as president and general minister of the congregation’s denomination, the United Church of Christ.

"If the church is silent, the rocks will cry out. If the church is silent, democracy will not become a reality in America. If the church is silent, then the United States cannot be united," Moss said before a packed Trinity United Church gathering on March 31.  Click to read an April 1 Chicago Tribune report of the meeting.

Wright has been the object of much criticism in the past several weeks, based on his strident criticism of American society, particularly on the issue of racism.

"Trinity United Church of Christ is a great gift to our wider church family and to its own community in Chicago," said Thomas, as quoted in a March 14 news story on the United Church of Christ’s national web site.  "At a time when it is being subjected to caricature and attack in the media, it is critical that all of us express our gratitude and support to this remarkable congregation, to Jeremiah A. Wright for his leadership over 36 years, and to Pastor Otis Moss III, as he assumes leadership at Trinity."  Click here to read profile of Otis Moss III.

Trinity United Church of Christ is one of the largest and most influential black churches in the country, and Obama has been fending off attacks leveled against Wright’s strident criticisms of racism in American society.  The church’s motto under Wright’s leadership has been “Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian.” Click to hear a March 19 National Public Radio interview with Moss.

Moss, the recipient of a Magee Fellowship at YDS, praised Wright’s leadership in a Feb. 11 Chicago Tribune article:  “While other ministers and ministries have allowed the winds of the current culture and market to reshape the gospel into formulaic catchphrases and false hopes of financial success, Dr. Wright, you have etched out a unique homiletic of recovery and redemption.”

In the United Church of Christ article, Thomas accused critics of Trinity of having partisan agendas:  "These attacks, many of them motivated by their own partisan agenda, cannot go unchallenged.  It's time for all of us to say 'No' to these attacks and to declare that we will not allow anyone to undermine or destroy the ministries of any of our congregations in order to serve their own narrow political or ideological ends."

Thomas described the preaching at Trinity as “biblically based and prophetically challenging.”

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