Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois, addresses the National Press Club April 28, 2008 in Washington, DC. Wright was Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama’s pastor for many years and he recently came under scrutiny when excerpts of one of his sermons showed him saying, “God bless America… No!… God Damn America!” Wright said that the negative attention was not about politics or politicians. “This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright,” he said. “It is an attack on the black church.”
Jeremiah Wright: Lightning rod. Jeremiah Wright: Youth leader?
The lightning rod pastor has been largely out of the public eye in recent years, but on Tuesday will be addressing a conference in DC about how to reach young Christians who have drifted from the institutional church.
The Rev. Amy Butler, who leads the large, progressive Calvary Baptist Church, said Wright’s voice is an important one, particularly for young Christians. The controversy that engulfed him during the 2008 presidential race, Butler said, allows him to attract people who are talking and thinking about cutting edge ideas in the church in general.
For decades Wright was the leader of the Chicago-based, 6,000-member Trinity United Church of Christ, but retired in May 2008. According to his bio, he now spends time “preaching, teaching and leading study tours to Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean.
Wright’s name reappeared in the news last month when he preached at a weeklong revival in Charleston, W. Va. There, he taught about the Gospel of Luke and told the story of his own return to Christianity, a journey that began one boozy afternoon on the steps of a Rockville, Md., church.
“I went there critical and found myself converted and convicted,” he said according to the Charleston Daily Mail.
He preached at Howard University in January of this year.
Wright will address the conference from Georgia, where he’s preaching at a revival, Butler said.
While the former Obama pastor is the most controversial name, the conference includes some of the best-known names among progressive American pastors, including Sojourners founder Jim Wallis, writer Brian McLaren and dreadlocked Christian activist Shane Claiborne.
In an e-mail, Butler said the conference brings in pastors and youth specialists to talk about how to “pass on our faith along to our children, who are increasingly bombarded with activities and involvement outside the church, who learn early on that the church is peripheral to life in society in general?”