Otis Moss III

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Otis Moss III is an African-American pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ who espouses black liberation theology and emphasizes reaching inner-city black youth.[1][2] He is married and has two children.[3]

Youth and education[edit]

His father, Otis Moss Jr. was an affiliate of Martin Luther King, Jr. working together in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference[4] and serving in 1971 as co-pastor with his father Martin Luther King, Sr. at Ebenezer Baptist Church.[5]

After growing up in the affluent Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, Ohio, graduating from Shaker Heights High School, Moss attended Morehouse College as an undergraduate, initially majoring in political science and film with the intent of becoming a filmmaker.[1][3] He was a runner and named by the NCAA as an All-American Track and Field athlete.[5] After hearing his call to the ministry during track practice, he changed majors to religion and philosophy and graduated with honors in 1992.[1][3]

He then attended Yale University, receiving in 1995 a Master of Divinity degree with a concentration in ethics and theology. During his time at Yale he became enamored of the Black liberation theology of James Hal Cone. He was also ordained as a Baptist minister by his father in 1995.[3][6]

After this, Moss moved to Denver to study for a Ph. D. in religion and social change from a joint program of the University of Denver and the Iliff School of Theology, a Methodist seminary.[5][7] While in Denver, he became the Minister of Youth Programs at the New Hope Baptist Church.[5] A sermon tape from a youth rally was given to the retiring pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia, leading to his call there.[3]

Tabernacle Baptist years[edit]

In 1997, Moss moved to Augusta, Georgia to take up the pastorate at Tabernacle Baptist Church, originally founded in 1885 as Beulah Baptist Church. During the Civil Rights Movement the church served as a local base for that movement.[8]

At the time Moss took over the church, it had 125 members, growing to 2,100 members by the time he left it in 2006, reportedly mostly through the inclusion of formerly unchurched young people.[2][3] During his tenure, the church also undertook a major renovation of their historic building.[8]

In 2000, he published a sermon collection entitled Redemption in a Red Light District - Messages of Hope, Healing and Empowerment, consisting of sermons from his first year of ministry.[9] He also periodically swapped pulpits with the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Augusta, where the Southern Baptist Convention was originally organized in support of slavery.[10]

In 2002, he was the first recipient of a prize, carrying a $25,000 stipend, for exemplary community service, evangelism and preaching. He had been nominated by the historian of the Chautauqua Institution in New York who considered him one of the best to have preached there. The prize is jointly awarded by three Presbyterian organizations; the Columbia Theological Seminary, the Presbyterian College, and the Peachtree Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, Georgia.[5][11]

During this period, Moss was a member of the Progressive National Baptist Convention as well as state and local Baptist organizations. Politically, he was a member of the NAACP and the Georgia branch of the Rainbow/Push Coalition founded by Jesse Jackson. He also served on the boards of the local United Way chapter and Augusta's black history museum, which is named after Lucy Craft Laney.[5][12]

Trinity United Church of Christ[edit]

Moss received two job offers. One was to come to the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio to succeed his father as pastor, the other to move to Chicago's Trinity United Church, a United Church of Christ (UCC) church pastored by Reverend Jeremiah Wright, to become Wright's successor at the roughly 8,500-member megachurch. Moss says that after prayer and fasting, he felt God's call was for him to go to Chicago, and did so in 2006, initially as Wright's assistant.[3][6]

Early in 2007, Moss was one of four additional contributors to the book The Gospel Remix: Reaching the Hip Hop Generation by Professor Ralph C. Watkins of the Fuller Theological Seminary.[13] That summer, Moss was one of several black ministers who gave eulogies at a mock funeral the NAACP put on for the word "nigger", where he described it as "the greatest child that racism ever birthed".[14]

Wright gave his last sermons as pastor on February 10, 2008. After some guest sermons, Moss took the pulpit on March 9.[3] Senator Barack Obama and family were members of Trinity United, and on March 13, during his 2008 presidential campaign a controversy broke out over racially and politically charged sermons by retiring pastor Wright.[15] While Obama's candidacy had brought attention to the church, this brought even more attention to it.[1][3]

Time magazine claimed that Wright was holding on to power and preventing Moss from fully taking over as pastor, citing unnamed sources within the church.[6] The following week, Moss and Wright told the congregation that the accurate title for him is indeed "senior pastor elect" because has not yet met UCC requirements for being installed pastor of a UCC church, and is expected to meet those requirements in the fall of 2008.[16][17] A UCC spokesperson had told Time that "it was hard to imagine that Moss wouldn't successfully complete the ordination process."[6] In May 2009 Moss was installed as the senior pastor of Trinity.[18][19]

Moss has also recently become a board member of The Christian Century.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Tareen, Sophia (2008-05-04). "Trinity gets new pastor: Rev. Otis Moss to lead Chicago megachurch". Chicago: The Post and Courier. Retrieved 2008-06-13. "Like Wright, Moss espouses 1960s black liberation theology, which applies the Gospel to contemporary struggles against racial oppression." 
  2. ^ a b Editorial Staff (2006-02-12). "Rev. Moss a rolling stone". The Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-06-13. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ramirez, Margaret (2008-02-17). "Rev. Otis Moss III: Remixing the Gospel". Chicago Tribune web edition (Chicago: Chicago Tribune). Retrieved 2008-06-13. [dead link]
  4. ^ John J. Grabowski & Diane Ewart Grabowski (2004-08-23). "Olivet Institutional Baptist Church: About Us". Heritage Media. Archived from the original on 2008-02-12. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Owens, Steve (2006-01-11). "Building Bridges". Presbyterian College. Archived from the original on 2008-04-24. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  6. ^ a b c d Gray, Stephen (2008-06-04). "The Unretirement of Reverend Wright". Time Magazine (Time Magazine). Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  7. ^ "About Iliff". Iliff School of Theology. Archived from the original on 2008-06-08. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  8. ^ a b Griggs, Ashlee (2001-07-16). "Church reopens its doors". The Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-06-13. [dead link]
  9. ^ Norton, Virginia (2000-05-13). "Authors find inspiration for books in faith". The Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-06-13. [dead link]
  10. ^ Norton, Virginia (1999-04-24). "Pastors to share wealth in pulpit exchange, joint service". The Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-06-13. [dead link]
  11. ^ Norton, Virginia (2002-04-27). "Minister honored for service, preaching". The Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-06-13. [dead link]
  12. ^ "The 33rd Annual Alexandere/Pegues Minister's Conference: Conference Presenters". Shaw University Divinity School. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  13. ^ Hill, Christopher Jack (2007). "The Gospel Remix: Reaching the Hip-Hop Generation". Black Issues Book Review. Retrieved 2008-08-13. [dead link]
  14. ^ Williams, Corey (2007-07-09). "NAACP Symbolically Buries N-Word". Detroit: Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  15. ^ Brian Ross; Rehab el-Buri (March 13, 2008). "Obama's Pastor: God Damn America, U.S. to Blame for 9/11". ABC News. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  16. ^ Chaney, Kathy (2008-06). "Rev. Wright’s retirement is firm, Rev. Moss says". Chicago: Chicago Defender. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  17. ^ Moss III, Otis; Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. (2008-06-08). "The Pastor's Word: June 8, 2008" (PDF). Trinity United Church of Christ. p. 2. Retrieved 2008-06-14.  [dead link]
  18. ^ Jasper, Kelly (1 August 2009). "Pastors use social site to share Christ". Augusta, Georgia: Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved 17 August 2009. 
  19. ^ Gillespie, Rhonda (3 June 2009). "Moss officially at helm of Trinity church". Chicago: Chicago Defender. Retrieved 17 August 2009. 
  20. ^ Buchanan, John (2008-03-30). "John Buchanan: “On Jeremiah Wright”". The Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago. Retrieved 2008-06-13.