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Talking Points: Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A Wright, Jr. and Trinity United Church of Christ

Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A Wright, Jr.

Basic Biographical Facts

  • Dr. Wright is the son of Rev. Jeremiah and Dr. Mary Wright. His mentor was the Rev. Dr. Samuel D. Proctor, pastor emeritus of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, New York. He was ordained 41 years ago and faithfully served the Trinity United Church of Christ (UCC)/(TUCC) for thirty-six years.
  • Dr. Wright has four earned degrees from Howard University, the University of Chicago Divinity School, and the United Theological Seminary. A respected theologian and ethnomusicologist, he has been bestowed nine honorary degrees.
  • Dr. Wright is a former marine, and served on the medical team as a cardiopulmonary technician that performed the surgeries on President Lyndon B. Johnson at the National Naval Medical Center. He has been bestowed three U.S. presidential commendations.

As Scholar/Educator

  • He has published four books and numerous articles. He has mentored hundreds of clergy and for thirty-six years has taught a ministers-in-training program. Forty-two persons have finished seminary and been ordained during his pastorate.
  • During his pastorate, Trinity UCC has given in excess of $1 million in scholarships to high school graduates entering college. The congregation has also given in excess of $1.5 million to assist members pursuing seminary education, over $500,000 to the United Negro College Fund and given over $500,000 to the Fund for Theological Education and several fully accredited (by the A.T.S.) seminaries including Chicago Theological Seminary, United Theological Seminary, The Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University.
  • Dr. Wright has lectured at over 10 A.T.S. accredited seminaries in this nation. A Jeremiah A. Wright legacy scholarship has been endowed at Chicago Theological Seminary; he serves on the board of trustees of Virginia Union University; he has preached and lectured at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, where an endowed chair was established in the name of his father.

As Pastor

  • The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. is the fourth pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ. When he came, there were 87 members. He grew the membership to over 8,000. Thirty-six years later, as he retires, his legacy includes more than seventy active ministries and eight corporations, including a credit union, a community development corporation, a health and hospice corporation, a higher education corporation, a day care center, two senior housing complexes, a federally chartered credit union, and an elementary school which has received a charter from the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education.
  • Trinity UCC is known for its benevolence and commitment to education. Under the leadership of Dr. Wright, in addition to the scholarships which have been awarded to college students and seminarians, support for ministry and educational opportunities has been given to poor blacks in Bahia (Brazil), the Caribbean and throughout Africa, with special ministries in Ghana and South Africa. TUCC has been one of the largest contributors to the Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM) of the UCC for over 10 years.
  • Dr. Wright ministers to his parishioners and those he does not know. For 36 years he has communicated with and ministered to the incarcerated. The liberating, prophetic and hopeful sermons and ministry of Dr. Wright not only inspired and brought to Christ 20 years ago a now presidential candidate, but also a prison inmate who joined TUCC and upon release enrolled in college and is now a board certified physician.

As Student of Islam/Visit to Libya

  • Dr. Wright is a student of the history of religions. His master’s degree from the University of Chicago is in that discipline and his area of concentration as an historian of religions was Islam in West Africa. While a student at the University of Chicago (U of C) he studied with the esteemed Islamic professor, Dr. Fazlur Rahman.
  • Dr. Wright’s Master’s thesis at the Divinity School of the U of C was the Tijaniyya among the Bambara, the Fulbe and the Tuckolour. The Tijaniyya was a 19th Century Sufi movement (a sect of Sufism) which swept into West Africa during the period of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.
  • In 1984, Rev. Dr. Wright was invited to join an interfaith delegation to visit Libya in celebration of its 15th Jamahiriya. He did so. He did not meet with, nor has he ever met with President Kadaffi, and he had to leave the delegation a week early to satisfy other family commitments.

Trinity UCC’s motto

  • The motto of Trinity UCC, “Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian” was coined by its third pastor, the Rev. Reuben Sheares and adopted by the congregation before Dr. Wright was its pastor.
  • It is a statement of affirmation of the congregation’s belief in Christianity and belief in themselves. It simply means that the congregation is not ashamed of its ethnic heritage nor will it disavow its Christian identity despite the historic role of Christianity in the slave trade and subsequent systems of racism Blacks have had to confront because of the color of their skin.

Trinity United Church of Christ

UCC General Minister and President John H. Thomas has addressed these in a news story that has appeared online since Jan. 11. Feel free to forward this link to persons who request information from you about the UCC: http://www.ucc.org/news/thomas-denounces-smear-1.html

Below are some talking points to assist you further:

DO come to the defense of the United Church of Christ and Trinity UCC.

  • “I have first-hand experience of Trinity UCC, its leaders and its ministries, and I know it to be a faithful, generous and justice-minded congregation that takes seriously its ministry within and among the African American community on Chicago’s south side.”
  • “The United Church of Christ includes many of the oldest congregations in this country. More than 10 percent were formed before 1776. It is socially, racially, economically and theologically diverse, and its membership includes 10 members of Congress — five Republicans and five Democrats, including Obama.”

DO NOT come to the defense of Obama specifically. That’s not your role.

  • “Our concern is the attacks that have been made on Trinity UCC, which are blatantly unfair and untrue. They do not fairly characterize the Chicago congregation where Obama and thousands of others hold their UCC memberships.”

DO refute distortions or misconceptions about Trinity UCC.

  • “Despite erroneous claims to the contrary, Trinity UCC’s membership includes several non-Black members — including the Rev. Jane Fisler Hoffman, Illinois Conference Minister, and her husband, Milt. The Fisler-Hoffmans are white.”
  • “Trinity UCC is a welcoming, hospitable church. If you’ve been there, you know this to be true.”
  • “Trinity UCC’s ministry is inclusive and global. Trinity UCC is a generous contributor to funding new church starts throughout the country and beyond, and it is the largest single donor to our ‘Our Church’s Wider Mission,’ the shared mission fund of the UCC, which is 90 percent European American.”

DO explain the predominate racial-ethnic heritage of Trinity UCC’s membership.

  • “Many churches observe and honor the racial-ethnic heritage of its congregation and its members, including — for example — many UCC churches of German, Samoan, Puerto Rican or Hungarian heritage. Trinity UCC is no different in honoring its African heritage.”

DO speak to racism as a present-day issue of justice that needs the nation’s attention.

  • Rev. Wright, like other UCC ministers, regularly speaks about important issues of justice, and racism is surely one of them. To deny the reality of racism in our nation — both historically and in the present day — is to ignore one of the most pressing social justice issues our nation faces.”

DO NOT engage in proof-texting of Jeremiah Wright’s sermons.

  • “I don’t think it’s appropriate nor fair to read a few sentence from another pastor’s sermons and then pass judgment, without knowing the context, the audience, the scripture, and the occasion and purpose for which these words were written and delivered.”
  • “I wouldn’t appreciate someone criticizing sermons of mine which they’d never heard.”

DO, if appropriate, speak to your personal relationship with Jeremiah Wright.

  • “I know Jeremiah Wright and I appreciate his prophetic preaching.”
  • “Rev. Wright’s sermons are broadcast every Sunday on national cable television and streamed on the internet for all to hear. He has long been regarded as one of the best preachers in Chicago and in the nation.”
  • “I am proud to be a colleague in ministry with Rev. Jeremiah Wright.”
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