Former WFU prof chosen by legendary NY church

Brad Braxton (VA & Trinity '91) nominated to become senior pastor at Riverside Church


Published: August 9, 2008



A former professor at the Wake Forest University Divinity School has been nominated to become the senior minister of New York's Riverside Church, one of the nation's most prestigious and visible churches.

The Rev. Brad R. Braxton has been selected by a church search committee to succeed the Rev. James A. Forbes, who served at Riverside for 18 years until his retirement last year.

Braxton's selection was announced last Sunday during service at the multiracial, interdenominational church near Columbia University. The congregation will vote on the nomination Sept. 14.

Braxton told The New York Times that he hopes to continue what he called the dual legacies of "congregational care internally, and bold, courageous, prophetic action externally, for which the Riverside Church has been known now for so many years."

If his nomination is approved, as expected, Braxton will join the ranks of a select group of 20 preachers -- included Harry Emerson Fosdick and William Sloane Coffin -- who have championed social-justice causes from the pulpit of Riverside, which was founded 78 years ago by John D. Rockefeller Jr. Braxton would also be, after Forbes, the second African-American to hold the senior minister's position.

At 39, Braxton would bring a youthful profile to the post; Forbes was 71 when he retired. Braxton's appointment would also mark another turn to relative youth for an established liberal Protestant institution in New York.

Earlier this year, Serene Jones, 48, a Yale University scholar, was selected to succeed the Rev. Joseph Hough, 74, as president of Union Theological Seminary, across the street from Riverside.

Braxton currently serves as an associate professor of homiletics and New Testament at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

He is the author of three books focusing on Pauline studies and interpretation.

Braxton is a graduate of the University of Virginia and holds a master's degree from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes scholar.

He received his doctorate in New Testament studies from Emory University.

He served as senior pastor of the Douglas Memorial Community Church, a 600-member interdenominational congregation in Baltimore, and preached at Westminster Abbey in London during 2007 bicentennial commemorations of the end of the British slave trade.

Sixty-five candidates were reported to have been interviewed for the senior minister's position at Riverside, which is affiliated with both the American Baptist Churches and the United Church of Christ.

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