Wright Accused of Adultery
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Years ago I was part of a large church in a major metropolis where the senior pastor was accused of adultery. It was a gut wrenching experience. For weeks, the leading newspaper had a hey-dey with the story. The congregation was devastated as hundreds left. And worst of all, the charges were found to be true.
So when news broke that controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright-- one of the UCC's best known preachers, emeritus pastor of the UCC's largest church, and the former minister of Barack Obama-- is being accused of adultery, the reaction here is one of sadness.
According to the New York Post:
Elizabeth Payne, 37, said she had a steamy sexual affair with the controversial, racially divisive man of the cloth while she was an executive assistant at a church headed by a popular Wright protégé.The charges are being taken seriously. Wright this week was speaking at a revival in New Jersey, but the host pastor canceled any further appearances:
When word of the unholy alliance got out, Payne's husband dumped her, and she was canned from the plum job at Friendship-West Baptist Church, she told The Post.
"I was involved with Rev. Wright, and that's why I lost my job and why my husband divorced me," Payne said.
She refused to reveal when the adulterous affair started or how she met Wright.
But fellow churchgoers at Friendship-West "found out about the affair in the spring," Payne said.
At the time, she was secretary to the Rev. Frederick Haynes III, a longtime Wright disciple.
In April, Payne organized a series of Texas public appearances by Wright, 67. Weeks before, Obama had disavowed his preacher of 20 years after Wright's anti-government rants came to light.
"Liz was by Rev. Wright's side day and night during those days," a church source said.
"It's all true," said Payne, adding that she has filed a wrongful-dismissal claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to get her job back.
More than 300 people had packed the church when Elmwood Presbyterian senior pastor Robert N. Burkins Sr. made the stunning announcement about 7:40 p.m.This site has posted other stories on some pretty bad ministers within our denomination and this one is significant. In this case, the "stink test" boils down to whether the incident likely happened and if it demonstrates a fundamental breach of trust that is placed with clergy. Thus far, the layers behind the accusation-- an accusing woman, a divorce, a lost job, secondary eyewitnesses, and a trail of e-mail messages-- don't look good for Wright.
"There has been an allegation of impropriety that has surfaced," Burkins explained from the pulpit as all eyes focused on him.
The accusation involves "inappropriate relations with a female in Texas," Burkins said. "These charges are serious and present a profound dilemma. These are unsubstantiated charges that require us to be sensitive. We ask that you all refrain from judgment."
Wright should do himself a favor-- get out of the public eye, surround himself with peers who will hold him accountable, and do the hard work of repentance.