Rev. James A. Forbes, Jr. gets new commission

NEW YORK (Dec. 20, 2011)—Religious leaders from across New York City joined the administration of Union Theological Seminary (Union) as it welcomed the Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. to Union and commissioned him to a national ministry of preaching and spiritual renewal.

Forbes, the senior minister emeritus of The Riverside Church and president and founder of the Healing of the Nations Foundation, was appointed the Harry Emerson Fosdick Distinguished Professor at Union, the preeminent global leader in progressive, theological graduate education.

Area seminary presidents and religious leaders—including Dr. James Stallings of Metro Association of American Baptist Churches, Dr. Robert Pollack of the Center for Study of Science and Religion, the Rev. Stephen H. Phelps of Riverside Church, the Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson of Auburn Theological Seminary, the Rev. Dr. Dale T. Irvin of New York Theological Seminary, and the Rev. Paul Jeannes, III of Trinity Episcopal Church (Princeton)—participated in the ceremony. Many offered him charges, among them to help children, to find joy and to be a teacher of truth.

The Rev. Stephen P. Bauman of Christ Church offered an interfaith “call to community” at the service, which included performances by Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble, the Rev. Melvin Poindexter-Miller of Fort Washington Collegiate Church and vocalist Maurice Lauchner.

“I am thrilled that Jim Forbes is returning to Union as the Honorary Distinguished Fosdick Professor,” said Union Theological Seminary President Serene Jones. “There is no stronger preaching voice in the country today than the Rev. Dr. Forbes. His return to Union signals his strong commitment to the training of ministerial and public leaders around the country.”

The event was a Spirit Alive event. Spirit Alive is a series of events led by Forbes, designed to deepen faith, inspire morality and compassion and mend divisions across race, religion, class and ideology. Through his Healing of the Nations Foundation, Forbes is working to counter growing incivility, self-centeredness and intolerance and to promote the healing of the spirit of America.

“I’m excited for this opportunity to give the value of my past experience to the nation, to take my country to heart, to love her, to diagnose her malaise and possibilities, and to listen for ‘a word from the Lord’ and find skillful ways to transmit what is needed to transform the nation,” stated Forbes, as he entered this new chapter.

Forbes has drawn inspiration from Fosdick, a popular and nationally renowned minister in the early part of the 20th century. Fosdick, who graduated from Union in 1904, served as the first pastor of Riverside Church and also held a chair at UTS. Forbes served as Riverside’s first African-American pastor until he retired in 2007; he now holds the title of Fosdick Distinguished Professor at UTS.

About The Rev. James Alexander Forbes, Jr.

The Rev. Dr. James Alexander Forbes, Jr. who received his Master of Divinity from UTS after studying chemistry at Howard University, also received his Doctor of Ministry from Colgate Rochester divinity school.

He became the first Joe R. Engle Professor of Preaching in 1985.

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