The president of the United Church of Christ expressed concern for the family of Barack Obama and for Trinity UCC after the Democratic presidential candidate formally resigned his 20-year membership at the Chicago church this past weekend.
"Obviously, we are saddened that Barack and Michelle Obama have decided to resign their membership at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago," said the Rev. John H. Thomas, in a statement Saturday.
But Thomas said he is "hopeful" that the Obama family will continue their church membership at another UCC congregation.
Leading Democratic presidential contender Obama announced his disaffiliation with Trinity UCC on Saturday following a string of controversies surrounding his former pastor and, more recently, a visiting pastor.
He said that although quitting Trinity UCC comes "with some sadness," it was the "right thing to do" for him and his family, according to The Associated Press.
"It's clear that now that I'm a candidate for president, every time something is said in the church by anyone associated with Trinity, including guest pastors, the remarks will imputed to me even if they totally conflict with my long-held views, statements and principles," he said.
He added, "This was a pretty personal decision and I was not trying to make political theater out of it."
The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., Obama's spiritual mentor for some 20 years, caused a firestorm of criticism earlier this year when videos of his past sermons surfaced that showed him blaming U.S. policies for the Sept. 11 attacks, and declaring from the pulpit "God damn America" for its racism.
After months of media scrutiny, the Obama-Wright controversy finally subsided, only to be succeeded by a new controversy surrounding visiting Catholic priest Father Michael Pfleger and his fiery remarks mocking Obama's rival Hillary Clinton.
Pfleger, who heads the Chicago parish St. Sabina Catholic Church, had parodied Clinton crying and saying "there's a black man stealing my show."
"She just always thought that, 'This is mine. I'm Bill's wife. I'm white' … And then, out of nowhere, came 'Hey, I'm Barack Obama." And she said, 'Oh damn, where did you come from? I'm white. I'm entitled. There's a black man stealing my show,'" Pfleger had said at Trinity United Church of Christ late May.
Obama has condemned both Wright's and Pfleger's inflammatory comments.
On Saturday, Trinity released a statement saying that although it is saddened by news that Obama has chosen to leave the church, "we understand that it is a personal decision."
"We will continue to lift them in prayer and wish them the best as former members of our Trinity community," the statement read.
The UCC president also said that members are reaching out with "pastoral concern" to all the parties involved in the controversy: the Obama family, new Trinity pastor the Rev. Otis Moss III, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., and members of Trinity UCC.