Obama Resigns Church Membership
Updated 9:15 p.m.
By Keith Richburg
ABERDEEN, S.D. -- Sen. Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, resigned their membership in the South Side Chicago church that had been their spiritual home for two decades but which, in recent months, had become a political liability in Obama's campaign for the presidency.
The Obamas announced their decision in a letter to Trinity United Church of Christ's Rev. Otis Moss III on Friday, saying, "We are writing to make official our decision to end our membership at Trinity."
"We make this decision with sadness. Trinity was where I found Christ, where we were married and where our children were baptized," the letter said. "But as you know, our relations with Trinity have been strained by the divisive statements of Reverend Wright, which sharply conflict with our own view."
Obama's unexpected decision came after a second controversy involving incendiary remarks from a pastor at the Trinity United Church of Christ, this time the Roman Catholic Rev. Michael Pfleger, who sharply ridiculed Sen. Hillary Clinton in a sermon last Sunday.
Obama scheduled an unplanned news conference Saturday evening here in Aberdeen, after news of the resignation began to spread. In the half-hour news conference, Obama said he and Michelle had been discussing leaving the church since his former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.'s theatrical and controversial appearance at the National Press Club in late April.
"It's not a decision I came to lightly, and it's one I make with some sadness," Obama said. But, he added, now that he is a presidential candidate, opponents were using the pastors' words to criticize him.
Obama said he never anticipated the storm of controversy his membership in Trinity Church would ignite. "This was one I didn't see coming," he said. "I did not anticipate my fairly conventional Christian faith being subject to such challenge and such scrutiny."
He also said his heightened profile was drawing unwelcome attention to the church. "It's also clear that Reverend Moss and the church have been suffering from all the attention my campaign has visited on them."
"I have no idea how it will impact my presidential campaign, but it's the right thing to do, for my church and for my family," he said.
Asked about choosing a new church, and whether he would more carefully vet his next pastor, Obama said, "I'm not going to approach this as a political exercise." He said in "whatever church you join," pastors may say things that members disagree with. But, answering a question, he acknowledged that joining another black church might be equally problematic. "There's a different religious tradition, or a worshiping style, in some of the African American churches," he said.
"I'm confident we're going to be able to find a church we're comfortable with," he added.
"Our faith remains strong," Obama said. "I suspect that we will find another church home for our family."
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Can't say that I'm happy about this, but after the Father Pfleger incident, I'm not surprised. Just went through all of this yesterday listening to the radio, and still didn't know how I felt about it. I'm just sad about it, but I'm not sure when it would have been the ' right' time to leave the church.