Dallas, TX – At Dallas' Friendship West Baptist Church some 30 of the nation's most prominent black pastors turned their attention to an embattled mentor and what the controversy surrounding him represents to the Black church.
Professor Stacey Floyd-Thomas is director of black church studies at Texas Christian University's Brite Divinity School.
Thomas: Recent media coverage and treatment of brief sermonic sound bites lifted without context from the preaching ministry of the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright underscore the urgency of our work. What is eminently clear is the degree to which the black church is still largely misunderstood.
Recent media broadcasts show an impassioned Wright in the pulpit of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ calling on God to damn America for treating citizens as less than human. He preaches about a culture controlled by rich white people.
Rev. Fredrick Haynes of Friendship Baptist said the short excerpts were taken out of context.
Haynes: The body of the work of Jeremiah Wright Jr. is not limited to a sound bite.
Haynes recalled the preaching of Reverend Martin Luther King which is often reduced to his I have a Dream speech. He says King, like Wright, also spoke passionately, sometimes angrily, about the United States government as a purveyor of violence.
Haynes: In my mind if Martin Luther King was pastoring a church today it would very much look like Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois, and the sermons you would hear him preach would sound very much like that brilliant scholar Dr. Jeremiah Wright Jr.
Rev Raphael Warnock, a successor to Dr. King's pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta reminds that the black Church grew out of slavery and segregation. He says that history has molded a unique style and message for black pastors.
Warnock: Whenever injustice is present morale outrage is appropriate It is inappropriate not to be outraged in the face of injustice.
The pastors who will honor Rev. Wright this weekend in his absence say the controversy surrounding him has given them an opportunity: to educate mainstream Americans about the history and the mission of the black church.
On Monday KERA will take a closer look at the history of preaching in the black church.