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Why Obama Stands With His Church

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By Colbert I. King
Saturday, March 22, 2008

All they wanted to do was pray with the rest of the congregation. But that was asking too much.

To be sure, Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, two leaders in Philadelphia's black community, enjoyed great success in bringing African Americans into the Christian fold.

But the steady growth in black membership at St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church distressed the white congregation that owned the church.

At first, black Christians were moved to seats along the wall.

That still allowed for too much mingling.

So one Sunday morning as Allen, Jones and the other black worshipers knelt to pray, white church elders tapped Jones and Allen on the shoulders and told them to take their praying upstairs to a recently built balcony.

Rather than submit to such humiliation, Jones, Allen and the rest of the black worshipers walked out.

The two men formed their own congregations. Jones gained permission from the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania to establish America's first black parish, St. Thomas African Episcopal Church. He eventually became the Episcopal Church's first African American priest.

Allen formed a Methodist congregation that eventually became today's multimillion-member African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.

The walkout in the City of Brotherly Love occurred in 1787 -- a year that marks the beginning of America's independent black church, a theological movement born out of racism.

This history comes to mind as I listen to conservative commentators, chief among them MSNBC's Pat Buchanan, brand as "racist" the slogan adopted by Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago: "Unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian."

Trinity is Barack Obama's church and the place where the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. -- a gift to all who would bring down Obama -- served as pastor until his recent retirement.


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