Why Oprah Left Reverend Jeremiah Wright's Church

05/12/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Reverend Jeremiah Wright has become a household name due to his association with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. However, Obama's not the only famous figure to attend Wright's church. Oprah was a member of Trinity church, where Wright preached, from 1984-1986, and she continued to attend off and on through the early 1990s. Then she stopped, and as Newsweek reports in its latest issue, Wright himself was a major reason:

According to two sources, Winfrey was never comfortable with the tone of Wright's more incendiary sermons, which she knew had the power to damage her standing as America's favorite daytime talk-show host. "Oprah is a businesswoman, first and foremost," said one longtime friend, who requested anonymity when discussing Winfrey's personal sentiments. "She's always been aware that her audience is very mainstream, and doing anything to offend them just wouldn't be smart. She's been around black churches all her life, so Reverend Wright's anger-filled message didn't surprise her. But it just wasn't what she was looking for in a church." Oprah's decision to distance herself came as a surprise to Wright, who told Christianity Today in 2002 that when he would "run into her socially ... she would say, 'Here's my pastor!' " (Winfrey declined to comment. A Harpo Productions spokesperson would not confirm her reasons for leaving the church.)

But Winfrey also had spiritual reasons for the parting. In conversations at the time with a former business associate, who also asked for anonymity, Winfrey cited her fatigue with organized religion and a desire to be involved with a more inclusive ministry. In time, she found one: her own. "There is the Church of Oprah now," said her longtime friend, with a laugh. "She has her own following."

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