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Monday, August 04, 2008

NYC's Riverside Church Selects New Pastor

According to The New York Times, the search committee of Riverside Church in New York City has unanimously selected the Rev. Dr. Brad R. Braxton to succeed Dr. James Forbes.

Here's a snippet (HT: Melissa Rogers):

Members of the church, which is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches and the United Church of Christ, provided the search committee — which interviewed 65 candidates — with guidance on how to find a new senior minister. But they knew nothing of who would be nominated when they arrived for the 10:45 a.m. service on Sunday. . . .

Cheryle Wills, the chairwoman of the search committee, told the congregation that committee members who saw Dr. Braxton in action described him as “powerful” and “a genius.”

“All of us know that this young man has a vision much larger than ours,” Ms. Wills said after the service. “We want to be on the forefront of change. And not change for the sake of change. But change for the betterment and inclusion of all people.” . . .

Should he be confirmed by the congregation next month, Dr. Braxton, a religious scholar and son of a Baptist pastor from Salem, Va., could be expected to follow the tradition of the five earlier senior ministers of the church in becoming an influential voice in city and national affairs.

Dr. Braxton was not present on Sunday. Reached by telephone, he said he was “honored” by the prospect of becoming part of the church’s “noble legacy.” He said he views his role as both nurturing the spiritual journey of his congregants and speaking to “moral goodness and justice and peace for the diverse peoples of the world and the planet on which we live.”

“Part of what religious communities do in their best moments is to seek after the truth with a sense of humility and a sense of openness for the sake of the common good,” he said. “So I certainly would hope to continue in that marvelous legacy of congregational care internally, and bold, courageous, prophetic action externally, for which the Riverside Church has been known now for so many years.”

Dr. Braxton, who studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, earned a Ph.D. in New Testament studies from Emory University while serving as senior minister for the Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore, according to a biography released by the church. He has most recently been an associate professor at the Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville.

Michael Westmoreland-White of Levellers offers a few thoughts on this announcement. Here's a snippet from his blog:

Now the search committee has unanimously recommended Rev. Dr. Brad Braxton as the next Senior Pastor. The congregation has yet to confirm the selection. Braxton currently teaches New Testament and Homiletics at Vanderbilt University Divinity School (and Vanderbilt’s Graduate Department of Religion) and previously taught at Wake Forest University Divinity School. The son of a Baptist minister and an ordained National Baptist minister, Braxton had been Senior Pastor at Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore, MD while finishing his Ph.D. in NT at Emory University. He had also studied at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. He is the author of three books and is on the editorial board of The African American Pulpit.

Married to the former Lazetta Rainey, the Braxtons are the proud parents of Karis, a 2 year old daughter.

If elected by the congregation, Braxton, who is 39, is young enough to follow in the tradition of long-serving Senior Ministers at Riverside. (There have only been 5 Senior Ministers to date in Riverside’s history: Harry Emerson Fosdick, Robert McCracken (a Scottish Baptist who had taught theology in Canada), Ernest T. Campbell, William Sloan Coffin, Jr. (a United Church of Christ minister and former chaplain of Yale University), and James Forbes, Jr.) He would be the 2nd African-American Senior Minister in a row and would complement Forbes’ excellence in preaching with a more exegetical style as a biblical scholar. His experience in ecumenical ministry and his Baptist roots would keep Riverside connected to both parts of its history.



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