CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The firestorm of controversy that surrounded the Rev. Jeremiah Wright during the 2008 presidential campaign didn't deter members of several local churches from hearing him speak during a Holy Week revival in Charleston.
Wright, who retired as senior pastor from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, came to Metropolitan at the request of the Rev. Darin Freeman, senior pastor at Metropolitan Baptist Church on Donnally Street downtown.
President Barack Obama attended Wright's church for 20 years and is said to have based his 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address and the title of his second best-selling book "The Audacity of Hope" on one of Wright's sermons.
Wright spoke to the Charleston group this week about the controversy surrounding him during Obama's first run for the presidency, in which snippets of his past sermons were played repeatedly to a national audience. He said the media sensationalized his words.
In one of the clips, Wright was shown saying that "America's chickens are coming home to roost" after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Wright had been quoting Malcolm X.
In another, he said, "not bless America, God damn America."
Obama eventually denounced Wright's statements and later officially withdrew from his home church in Chicago.
"I'm not divisive, the media is divisive," Wright said. "CBS, ABC, MSNBC and FOX News spent $4,000 each buying 20 years of my sermons so they could hear what Barack Obama had heard for 20 years.
"Then they took an 8-year-old sermon and a 5-year-old sermon and took two clauses out of context to try to scare white voters away from Barack Obama. I ain't dividing. They're dividing."
Freeman said there is more to Wright's message than those few statements.
"If we could get beyond the sound bytes, we could hear what was really said," the local pastor said.
Freeman welcomed a Daily Mail reporter and photographer to one of the three evening services at which Wright spoke this week.
The Rev. Ron English, another local pastor, was asked to introduce Wright and spoke about the Chicago preacher's previous visits to Charleston, including a citywide revival in the 80s and visits to other local churches in the 90s. English also touched on the controversy.
"Recently sound bytes have defined the image of Dr. Jeremiah Wright, and because of those sound bytes — I've been in Charleston for quite a few years — I have never seen a preacher come to town for a revival and get three months' notice," English said as he held up a copy of the Daily Mail with a front-page story about Wright's visit.
"I thank God for this divisive preacher," he said referring to the headline of the article 'Divisive preacher speaking at revival.'
Members of other local churches came to Metropolitan Church for the revival.
Casey James, a Cross Lanes resident and retired Charleston police officer, attended Tuesday night. James, who attends Allen Chapel AME on Wertz Avenue, said he enjoys Wright's sermons. His favorites are "Black man, what makes you so strong?" and "What are we teaching our children?" James said.
"I certainly enjoy him," James said. "He is one of few ministers who has the ability to take today's events and relate them to the Bible."
He said Wright's statements have been taken out of context and that didn't stop him from enjoying the sermon.
"I can only say good things about Jeremiah Wright," James said. "Not a lot of people know what he knows about history and the Bible.
"Those people who criticize him have never heard him preach before."
Freeman said he and Wright are friends and have mutual acquaintances among preachers in the area. Freeman said Wright often preached at the Howard University School of Divinity, where he attended.
All it took to get Wright to Charleston was a phone call, he said.
"I'm as excited as a pig in mud," Freeman said.
Wright was an excellent speaker, and the revival was well-attended, he said.