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The Rev. Wright Attending D.C. Conference

The focus may be on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright today when he speaks at the National Press Club, but Barack Obama's former pastor is joining other black ministers and theologians for the two-day Samuel DeWitt Proctor conference at Howard University.

The conference, "The Prophetic Witness in the African American Religious Experience: Crisis, Calling, Critique and Community," will include speakers such as the Rev. Otis Moss Jr., a close ally to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and father of Obama's current pastor Otis Moss III.

Postie Hamil R. Harris caught up with the Rev. Susan Smith, pastor of the Senior Advent

United Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio, and a member of the board of trustees of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.

Smith, the spokeswoman for the conference, said the annual event is the opportunity for black religious groups to come together to discuss social issues.

"We have been having legislative days for the past four or five years, and the point of the event is for religious leaders to come to Washington and to return home prepared to make an impact on the nation in terms of public policy," Smith said.

After Hurricane Katrina, for example, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor held hearings in Washington, New Orleans and Houston.

Regarding the Wright controversy, Smith said, "Much of what has erupted is because people heard a sound byte and they don't understand the role of the prophetic black church in the lives of Black Americans. The black church came into existence because black people were not allowed to worship in white churches."

"The black church has been the saving grace for black Americans living in a hostile world," Smith said. "White Supremacy taught African Americans that we were a mistake, that they were a curse of Ham."

"In this country there are two sacred texts: the Bible and the U.S. Constitution. For African Americans, although we love this country and we have fought for this country, we have not been treated with dignity. For people to say that Jeremiah is not patriotic is not true, we have not been treated as dignified Americans. You need the black church to be reminded of what is going on in the world. That is a big part of Liberation Theology. Jesus was an advocate for the disinherited and the least of the these."

The challenge for the conference this week, however, is to not be overshadowed by Wright. Added Smith, "We want to give the pastors the tools to...keep working for compassionate justice. The focus is not on Jeremiah Wright, the focus is on the prophetic call of the black church."

Hamil R. Harris

By Marcia Davis  |  April 28, 2008; 7:30 AM ET
Categories:  2008 Presidential Race  
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Wright has made it clear in the last three days that he is a glory-seeker. He has changed his tone dramatically recently. This only makes me think that he is an opportunist. Of course he's going to overshadow the conference. This conference presumes that the Black church is all about Liberation Theology. Not so. But I wouldn't expect a conference such as this one to represent the entire black race. I say that considering the fact that liberal blacks are constantly kicking conservative blacks out of the black race- as if they had the power to do so- tsk tsk tsk.

Posted by: dcp | April 29, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

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