In Wake of Rev. Wright, Obama Seeks New Church

Come Jan. 20, Barack Obama knows the house in which he and his family will live, but he has yet to decide at which house of worship they will pray.

Within steps from the White House, the Obamas can choose from a bevy of churches, each offering reasons to be selected, from historic connections to the presidency to historic connections to the African-American community.

Anywhere the Obamas choose to worship, observers told, will likely be scrutinized for a political message.

The Obama transition staff would not comment on which church the family was considering or when it would announce a decision.

Shaun Casey, a professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., and an advisor on religious outreach to Obama during the campaign, said the Obamas had yet to make a decision.

"They have not made a decision. I have no idea what the time frame will be," Casey said.

Former President Jimmy Carter belonged to a Baptist church in Washington and taught Sunday school in Virginia.

The Clintons attended church a mile away from the White House where their daughter Chelsea belonged to a youth group.

Both presidents Bush were members at St. John's Episcopal Church, a short walk from the White House, though the current president more often attends services at Camp David than in Washington.

Obama's selection will perhaps be scrutinized more than that of any other recent president, given the attention paid during the election to his faith and his relationship to his former pastor, the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Obama left Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago last spring, when inflammatory comments made by Wright, who had been Obama's religious mentor for 20 years, became an issue during the campaign.

Obama has attended church sparingly in the past several months, and since winning the election has spent his Sunday mornings at the gym.

"I think he has to use some discretion because of Rev. Wright, and carefully consider where he and his family choose to attend," said pastor Ronald Braxton of the historically black Metropolitan AME Church, located six blocks from the White House.

Where Obama and His Family Choose to Worship

"President-elect Obama and his family should choose to worship wherever they want, wherever they feel most comfortable," Braxton said. "But of course, people will try to interpret their decision to see if he and his family are trying to send a message."

Braxton said Metropolitan AME had not sent an official invitation to the first family, but that his congregation of 2,000 has a "welcoming spirit and would certainly welcome the first family." Abolitionist Frederick Douglass was a member and was eulogized at Metropolitan, and today, prominent black Washington insiders, including Clinton associate Vernon Jordan and former Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater, are members of the church.

Obama has spoken frequently about the importance of his Christian faith. In his 2006 book, "The Audacity of Hope," he wrote that "the historically black church offered me a second insight: that faith doesn't mean that you don't have doubts, or that you relinquish your hold on this world. ... You needed to come to church precisely because you were of this world, not apart from it."

But there is no guarantee that the Obamas will choose an historically black church, and perhaps, instead, they'll pick a more diverse congregation.

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