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Our broad range of emotions

It is understandable that members of the United Church of Christ have been wrestling with the controversy surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. with the same broad set of emotions and frustrations that have been expressed nationwide in recent days and weeks.
What we've heard from many of you is concern for our denomination and the well-being of our local churches. For this I am grateful. There is also dismay and outrage that the United Church of Christ is being painted in broad, caricatured strokes that diminish and ignore the reality of our members' many viewpoints and our churches' diverse histories and perspectives.
While there is high regard for Rev. Wright's ministry and leadership at Trinity UCC in Chicago during the past thirty-six years, and for his prophetic, scriptural preaching, many of us today are troubled by some of his controversial comments and the substance and manner in which they have been communicated, both by him and as characterized by the media.
Following Rev. Wright's insightful interview with Bill Moyers on Friday, many in the UCC hopefully anticipated that the prophetic voice of the church would be more clearly understood by the public and affirmed. But, unfortunately, following widespread critique of his handling of questions and answers at the National Press Club, that deep hope has turned now to unsettling despair for many. There is a collective and abiding sadness and anger in the present moment, regardless of theological or political persuasion.
I write this while in South America where I have been visiting cherished partner churches and courageous human rights organizations in Argentina and Chile. In countries still haunted by wounds from oppressive dictatorships three decades ago, I have been struck by the depth of interest in our nation's political process, and by the deep hopes of many that the United States can be a force for economic justice, peace, human rights, and racial reconciliation in a hemisphere still afflicted by deep poverty, violence, and despair. It is time now for all of us - candidates and church members alike - to turn to these compelling moral themes.
To that end, we seek your support and active preparation as many in the UCC and beyond embark on a sacred conversation on race, beginning May 18, a time when we hope our churches will promote an honest, thoughtful and mature examination of the issue of race in this country. Your prayers are also sought and encouraged for our nation and our church, especially for Trinity United Church of Christ as it continues to bear the weight of this highly visible, politically charged controversy.
May God bless us with the renewed courage, insight and grace that these days require.

The Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ