In a letter to John Thomas, president of the United Church of Christ (UCC), Rev. David Runnion-Bareford, founder of Biblical Witness Fellowship (BWF), called for the mainline Protestant denomination, which includes President Barack Obama as one of its members, to publicly repudiate the anti-Semitic statements which were made this week by Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Mr. Runnion-Bareford’s organization represents a reactionary conservative wing of the UCC, a mainline Protestant denomination with 1.2 million members.
Rev. Wright, who served for many years as Mr. Obama’s pastor at the Trinity UCC in Chicago, said in an interview this week that President Obama had not spoken with him recently because “them Jews aren’t going to let him talk to me.” He added: “Ethnic cleansing is going on in Gaza. Ethnic cleansing of the Zionists is a sin and a crime against humanity.”
Wright also said Mr. Obama should have sent a U.S. delegation to the World Conference on Racism held recently in Geneva, Switzerland, but that the president did not for fear of offending Jews and Israel. He specifically cited the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential pro-Israel lobbying group.
“They [the Jews] will not let him to talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is,” Rev. Wright added. “He’s a politician; I’m a pastor. He’s got to do what politicians do.”
Rev. Runnion-Bareford, in his letter, maintained that such language only promotes violence and hatred against a people close to the heart of God, adding, “The impact of anti-Semitism is graphically illustrated by the tragic murders which took place in the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.”
But no criticism of Rev. Wright’s latest remarks has been forthcoming from Mr. Thomas or other leaders of the denomination.
The UCC in several official statements has denounced the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and has called for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Rev. Wright is no stranger to controversy. In a sermon delivered in 2003, he said: “The government gives them [African Americans] the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”
In addition to damning America, he told his congregation on the Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001 that the United States had brought on al Qaeda’s attacks because of its own terrorism. “We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye.” He went on to say: “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”
But the UCC has refused to take the minister to task for any of his inflammatory statements. In his defense of the fiery African American minister, UCC President Thomas said in 2008: “I have first-hand experience of Trinity, its leaders and its ministers, and I know it to be a faithful, generous, and justice-minded congregation that takes seriously its ministry within and among the African-American community on Chicago’s south side.”
Paul L. Williams, Ph.D., is the author of such best-selling books as The Day of Islam, The Al Qaeda Connection, Osama’s Revenge: The Next 9/11, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Crusades and The Vatican Exposed. An award-winning journalist, he is a frequent guest on such national news networks as ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, MSNBC, and NPR.
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