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Every denomination needs one of these...

Not again! WSJ: Trinity may have also violated IRS rules

Monday, March 10, 2008

From today's Wall Street Journal:
On Christmas morning, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. compared presidential candidate Barack Obama's impoverished childhood to Jesus Christ's. "Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a ountry and a culture that is controlled by rich white people," he then trumpeted. "Hillary [Clinton] can never know that."

Mr. Wright wasn't at a convention or a campaign stop. He was standing at the pulpit before the mostly African-American congregation of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, where Sen. Obama has worshiped for more than 20 years.

Mr. Wright, who will be ending his 36-year tenure as the church's senior pastor in June, has previously been criticized for comments deriding President George Bush and lauding Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. Now Mr. Wright's and his successor's repeated enthusiastic promotion of their famous parishioner may be running afoul of federal tax law, which says churches can endanger their tax-exempt status by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.
And it looks like the allegations might have legs:
Ellen Aprill, an associate dean at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and a former adviser to the Treasury Department on matters including nonprofit tax law, says she believes those sermons are "clearly a violation. They're naming names.''

Donald Tobin, an associate dean at Ohio State University law school, who formerly worked for the Justice Department on nonprofit tax matters, adds that nonprofits cannot make endorsements or engage in a "pattern and practice that is designed to support one candidate over another." After being read sections of the Trinity sermons by the Journal, he said, "There does seem to be a pattern of attempting to tip the scales in a way for Barack Obama. And churches shouldn't be doing that."
Anyone have any predictions what the spin from Trinity UCC, the national office and UCC Conferences will be on this?

It will also be interesting to see how Americans United will react. After missing the boat on the current IRS investigation of the UCC, Barry Lynn and team will either have to make up new interpretations of IRS rules or they will have to concede that Trinity crossed the line.
posted by UCCtruths, Monday, March 10, 2008


Ouch, that has got to hurt.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 11:07 AM  
The spin? The national office will distance itself from Trinty in their typical spineless way.
commented by Anonymous David F., 12:41 PM  
No spin necessary. A direct comparison between two candidates is a far cry from direct advocacy of one candidate over another.

It's pretty unfortunate that we've become so gun-shy and PC about pulpit speech that even "naming names" is forbidden - no matter the context, such as the obviously true statement that Hillary will never know what it's like to be black.

Incidentally, I have to wonder about the motivations behind a website that seems to take pleasure in 'exposing' non-issues like this. To be sure, there are legitimate complaints to be made about the UCC, but is it really necessary to lift up every last piece of bad publicity for the UCC you come across, no matter how thinly-stretched it is, just because? Seems a little sadistic, frankly.

commented by Blogger Tom, 3:46 PM  
Puh-leeeze... this issue is directly related to the other IRS investigation so it's wholly relevant to post here. A front page article on the Wall Street Journal is not small piece of bad PR for the UCC either.
commented by Blogger UCCtruths, 3:59 PM  
click on tom's name and you'll find a blog that includes a link to moss, the guy whose sermon is quoted in the WSJ. and it appears that he's a supporter for Obama. he's not defending the ucc. he's got other fish to fry.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 4:21 PM  
"this issue is directly related to the other IRS investigation"

How is that?

Regarding bad press for the UCC, the best spot for that would be UCC Truths.
commented by Blogger David, 4:29 PM  

Let's see... Obama, UCC, supporting a candidate at an official church function... gee, you are right, I can't imagine how the two could possibly be linked.
commented by Blogger UCCtruths, 4:45 PM  
Oh really? Then I guess the IRS will be using the same complaint to investigate this, right? Candidates' names, unfortunately or not, are commonly heard from a number of pulpits. Clinton, McCain, and others have spoken at a number of churches this year. Saying a person's name isn't the same as endorsement.

Keep trying James, maybe someday you'll finally be able to bring down evil Cleveland. Bwa haa haa!! :)
commented by Blogger David, 5:15 PM  
I think David's response demonstrates how some people would rather shoot the messenger than deal with the issue. James didn't create this issue, he's reporting on it and I think as a UCC member myself that this type of reporting helps keep our leaders on their toes.

Where is the humility to say "you know, maybe we should be more vigilant about the IRS regulations"? How can we expect to have any authority or credibility to witness to the world when we set ourselves up like this? We aren't perfect. UCCTUTHS is not perfect, I am not perfect, James is not perfect and David is not perfect. We humbly accept this condition and we should humbly open ourselves up to reasonable inspection. Let the IRS do it's job before you go rushing to their defense.
commented by Anonymous Gary, 9:33 PM  
click on tom's name and you'll find a blog that includes a link to moss, the guy whose sermon is quoted in the WSJ. and it appears that he's a supporter for Obama. he's not defending the ucc. he's got other fish to fry.

Thanks, anon, for reading my blog! Hope you found it illuminating.

Actually, in addition to being an Obama supporter and a fan of Trinity UCC, I am a UCC seminarian. My interest in this matter is first and foremost because of my connection to the UCC.

commented by Blogger Tom, 11:20 PM  
Frankly I don't think there is a case against the national setting. Obama was invited to GS over a year before his campaign started. Edith Guffey made it clear that there was to be no campaigning and banners, buttons, placards, etc were not allowed. The Obama campaigners on the sidewalk had nothing to do with the UCC. Sure Obama's staff spun the speech as part of his campaign, but he was invited only to speak on how his faith influences his participation in the public sphere.

But there is a case against Trinity. This has been going on since Obama ran for the Senate--mostly Jeremiah Wright balking at Obama's opponents from the pulpit, and conversely praising Obama. I occasionally watch Trinity services online, and happened to view during the Senate race. Wright announced that he had a song for Alan Keyes and sang "Na na na na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye." Sounded more than a bit partisan to me. I'm an Obama supporter and I generally think Trinity UCC is a church that does a lot of good, but its clearly crossed the line.
commented by Blogger James, 11:54 PM  
lets get real

The UCC is the most overtly political denomination I have encountered in years

They are getting what they deserve
commented by Blogger Paul Jamieson, 9:43 AM  
Well, you're right about one thing: the UCC is pretty political.

Thing is, so was Jesus. He was one of the most important political figures in history.

So what's your point?
commented by Blogger Tom, 7:15 PM  
Tom, you've unfortunatley bowed as yet another proof that the UCC and it adherents have again 'missed the point'. Who were those overtly political leaders in the 1st century, oh yeah thats right, the Pharisees, not Jesus. Matter of fact, Jesus despised those who made the temple a place for self-promotion...just read it today in the gospel of John. As someone who works in a UCC church, undercover none the less, it'd be really nice to see some biblical literacy in this denomination, not just the cut and paste theology that overides the truth...then we wouldn't be having these debates over things that are black and white...no pun intended there. So Paul's point, I think, is exactly the opposite of the inaccurate account of Jesus you just gave...politics do not have a place in the pulpit, though those in politics should be influenced by the message of the pulpit, or coffee table, or by whatever means Christ is preached.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 12:43 PM  

In my view, politics are not limited to the words and deeds of politicians, but also include the nature by which people interact with their rulers.

I believe that Jesus was political first in his deeds throughout his life, and secondly in his death and resurrection. He died from a sentence of capital punishment at the hands of the state. But Jesus triumphed over death through his resurrection, trumping even the worst governmental powers - by embodying the highest power.

You may not see that as a political act, but I believe it directly challenged and profoundly undermined the Roman government. It is an act that took what had been assumed by Ceasar, the power to act with God-like impunity, and restored it to God. The civics lesson for Christians is that the government is not God, and when she (the gov't) attempts to assert God-like powers over the lives of others, we are to follow Jesus instead.

Think about how our government attempts to displace God today. Instead of assisting or enabling it, we must oppose those maneuvers. I'm not sure of in what ways you believe the UCC is "too political," but if fighting to end poverty, war, torture, racial injustice, inhumane treatment of innocent people around the world, second-class citizenship among minority groups of Americans, and environmental destruction - to name just a few - is "too political," then what on earth does that say about the actions of Jesus himself, both during his life and through his death and resurrection?


P.S. I am unimpressed by your cheap shots regarding the supposed biblical literacy of your hoodwinked employers. There are, of course, plenty of liberal and conservative Christians who are ignorant of what's in their Bible, but you seem to want to smear only those of us in the UCC. If you could at least limit the ad hominem attacks to those of us who are posting on this thread, I for one would appreciate it.
commented by Blogger Tom, 5:15 PM  
As far as political insight is concerned, you have given a very nice synopsis of historical accuracy, and a good way of looking at the life of Christ through a political lense. Thank you for that. I disagree that "Jesus was political first in his deeds throughout his life" in the sense that a) His mission was overtly to seek and save that which was lost and leave a legacy for His followers by which to say all might be saved and b) though Pilate was the one who ultimately gave the OK for his crucifixion, he also washed his personal hands of it, succumbing to what the religious leaders a.k.a. Pharisees that I mentioned in the last post, wanted. Now, all that to say, your entire last paragraph more closely pointing to social justice was a complete misread on me personally and a misread on what I believe about the UCC. For starters, the OT asks "What does God require of us? That we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God." Any person anywhere who claims to be a follower of Christ and is not actively involved in social justice is sadly out to lunch, I can humbly say I strongly believe in such social justice, AND, I do believe that it has a profound influence on our government, BUT, the reason for social justice is not to influence government but to help heal injustice and reach the marginalized...the politics are a byproduct. Yes, the UCC is too political, if they would spend the millions of dollars they do in promoting themselves above other denominations in TV ads on feeding the poor, clothing the naked, and healing the sick, then THAT would be making a profound impact. Jeremiah Wright ranting in his outdated white-hating manner is not serving the cause of social justice, neither is John Thomas's hailing him as a prophet and biblical scholar. I'm not sure how to be any clearer on those points, you can choose to believe Jesus came to overturn the political system, I choose to believe that while His life and specifically ressurection did challenge it, that He came to save, love, and heal. I'd rather my life exemplify the latter with the benefit of the former if possible, but I won't use the pulpit as a stump for my personal political advocacy, nor should other pastors or the UCC as a whole.
Lastly, I cannot with all certainty say my employers are hoodwinked, just the pastor who is the only proponent of the UCC in the entire church...no one else knows or understands what the UCC is about, and they'd only care if someone made it an issue FOR them, and since I see my mission as one to help lay a foundation of truth for the children and students in our church, I don't think now is the time to do that to the congregation, nor may it ever be. There are bigger fish to fry than exposing a jacked up denomination and causing dissension in the church, nor do I feel it would be the most loving thing to do, unless they came to that point and wanted my input. Sorry, there is more screwed up theology in this denomination than is even remotely apparent on this thread, can't narrow it down that as far as you'd like me to. And, since when did the truth become cheap shots? Here's another snibbet of truth to help ease your obvious sense of left and right: I think much of what Rod Parsley has to say makes him a crackhead too...truth isn't black or white, right or left, UCC or anything else...the UCC sure does a good job of acting like they've got the handle on the market though, wake up dude.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 3:59 PM  

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