Mark D. Roberts

I’ve been following a story that has scarcely been reported in the news. So far, I’ve only seen it at the TIME and Fox News websites. No doubt this story has been ignored by the media because it has little impact on the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama, who has now withrdrawn his membership from Trinity Church. But for those of us who care about the church of Jesus Christ, this next chapter in the Jeremiah Wright/Trinity story is both sad and worthy of our attention.
According to news sources, two years ago, Jeremiah Wright began a process that would lead to his retirement from Trinity Church. Following a course that was not standard in his denomination, Rev. Wright hand-picked his successor, Rev. Otis Moss III. Rev. Moss was full of promise as a brilliant, winsome, caring pastor. I heard Rev. Moss interviewed on the radio a couple of months ago, and I was most impressed with his discretion and quiet wisdom . . . a far cry from the histrionic Rev. Wright. (Photo: Rev. Otis Moss III)
Sunday, June 1, was the day Jeremiah Wright had established for his official retirement. We would become the Pastor Emeritus of Trinity Church and Otis Moss would assume full authority as the new Senior Pastor. But this did not happen. Instead, Rev. Wright hung onto his role as Senior Pastor, while allowing Rev. Moss to be merely the Pastor. Rev. Wright also told his protégé that he needed additional “supervision,” and that he had to fire one of the staff people he had hired. On June 1, which was supposed to be Rev. Moss’s first day as Senior Pastor, Rev. Wright didn’t even show up. A few hours after the worship services, Rev. Moss left for a vacation. No kidding!
According to TIME, Trinity church officials are mostly playing mum about this story. Many members of the church are understandably distressed by what seems to be a flat-out power play by Jeremiah Wright.
Now I freely admit that there is much I don’t know about this situation. But, on the surface, it looks like a classic case of an older pastor who is unwilling and unable to let go of his church when the time is right. This often happens in churches where the pastor is the church founder, or in cases like Trinity Church, where a pastor has had a long and influential ministry. During Rev. Wright’s thirty-six years at Trinity, the church grew from 87 to over 6,000 members.
As someone who recently had to let go of a beloved church I pastored for sixteen years, I can understand some of what must be brewing in Rev. Wright. Yet I am deeply saddened by his actions and their impact on this church. Unless something is seriously wrong with Rev. Moss and his leadership, for which we have no evidence, then Jeremiah Wright seems to be injuring something he worked long and hard to nurture . . . not unlike what his actions may have done to the political future of Barack Obama. From my admittedly underinformed perspective, it seems like Rev. Wright is once again letting his ego get the better of his judgment.
Today I’m praying for Trinity Church, that God’s peace will be granted to them. I’m praying for Jeremiah Wright, that he will have the wisdom and grace to step down as he had promised. And I’m praying for Otis Moss III, who must be terribly hurt and discouraged. May God work his will in this church!

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