As with the fallout at St. Sabina over Pfleger’s suspension, there’s no Obama angle here anymore. Does there need to be? The Obama campaign is the “Happy Days” of politics: There are so many compelling minor characters that I find myself following them into their own spin-offs, even though they don’t serve the narrative of the parent show anymore.
On today’s episode of Hate Church, Rev. Wright refuses to relinquish power to new Pastor Otis Moss, setting up a confrontation between the wise elder who thinks America created HIV and the charismatic young upstart who equates tough media coverage with lynchings.
Wright was officially to have stepped down last Sunday, June 1. And from the pulpit at 7:30 a.m. that day, Wright’s hand-picked successor, the Rev. Otis Moss III, preached what should have been his first sermon as senior pastor of Trinity, one of the Chicago’s largest congregations and among the most influential religious institutions in America. Instead, on church bulletins on June 1, Moss was identified simply as “pastor” rather than “senior pastor,” even as Wright assumed the title “pastor emeritus.” Indeed, Trinity members familiar with the developments say that on May 27, Moss was summoned to the church’s massive brown sanctuary for a meeting that included Wright, several church board members and other senior leaders. According to those sources, Moss, 37, expected the meeting to finalize transition plans. Instead, Wright suggested the board merely declare Moss “senior pastor-elect” because the younger cleric needed “supervision” — effectively ensuring Wright remains Trinity’s preacher-in-chief. Wright’s essential argument hinges on a technicality: Moss is an ordained Baptist minister who has yet to be fully ordained in the United Church of Christ, the predominantly white protestant denomination of which the roughly 8,500-member Trinity is the largest congregation.
As news of the situation traveled through the congregation, many Trinity members were baffled. “Two years ago, you felt God gave you the vision to bring Rev. Moss here,” one Trinity member said this week, referring to Wright’s explanation for hiring Moss. “Now,” the same member added, “why are you second-guessing God’s vision, and saying Rev. Moss isn’t qualified, that somehow he needs to go through more hoops?”
According to Trinity members familiar with the situation, after the May 27 meeting, Moss was ordered to tell the first person he hired — his head of communications — that she could no longer serve in the paid pastoral staff position. At least one other Trinity staffer has also been relieved of her duties in recent days. One source familiar with the situation said of Wright and the dismissals, “He doesn’t have to run it by the board.”…
“The church is splitting,” says one Trinity member. “It’s sad, because this is a case of the older leader not being prepared to pass the mantle to the new leadership, and all that the new leadership represents.”
My cynical atheist heart had to smile at that boldface part, but not just for the standard cynical reason: The idea of Wright suddenly reversing course on a handpicked spiritual advisor for his own power-seeking reasons has a certain resonance, shall we say, with the plot arc in the parent show, Everybody Loves Barack, doesn’t it? Exit question: Obama quit the church on the evening of May 31, literally hours before Wright’s tenure was supposed to end — and didn’t. One of his talking points all along has been that Wright is his former pastor, which is why he didn’t feel the need to quit Trinity. Could he have heard through the grapevine that Wright was thinking about sticking around after all, thus taking that talking point away from him and forcing his hand?