Monday, July 07, 2008

Senator Obama Enthusiastically Welcomed at African Methodist Episcopal Conventon,0,4896931.story

Obama enthusiastically welcomed at convention

Associated Press Writer
6:20 PM CDT, July 5, 2008

Barack Obama found a receptive audience Saturday at the African Methodist Episcopal Church convention, where he reinforced his message of service, sacrifice and active faith.

The crowd of thousands of delegates and leaders of the oldest predominantly black denomination in North America welcomed Obama as their own political son, who understands their language of God and church.

"He was excellent, marvelous," said Eunice Williams, a great-grandmother from Jacksonville, Fla. "I think he'll make a blessed president. He wants to do something to help all mankind, not just a few."

Addressing the A.M.E. church may give the Democrat a boost in an area where his presidential campaign has struggled.

Saying "God raised us for service," Obama told of his own conversion to God's will and truth as a community organizer, lessons he said he took with him in his later roles.

The challenges of war, poverty, violence and genocide are moral problems rooted in individual callousness that government alone can't fix, he said. Individuals must serve too. But he added that a necessary first step is to stop spending billions of dollars in Iraq and instead spend it on lifting people in cities such as St. Louis and Chicago.

"Our nation's conscience can't rest with so much work to be done," he said, calling for a greater role by faith-based agencies for change.

He also had something to say to reporters who may never have seen this side of the candidate.

"I've been talking about this for two years," he said. "This is not part of a presidential strategy."

"I say it because I believe it; I've always believed it. This is the work we are called to do as Christians. We need every hand on deck."

Comments critical of the U.S. by Obama's longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, caused a firestorm during the primary season. Obama's brand of faith also came under scrutiny because of Wright's adherence to black liberation theology.

Obama also has battled false but persistent rumors that he is a Muslim. They have been kept alive on the Internet despite his repeated talk about his longtime devotion to Christianity.

The A.M.E. convention also invited John McCain, but, so far, the Republican presidential candidate has not committed. The convention started Thursday and runs through July 11.

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