Monday, September 18, 2006

NYT: Forbes to step down as pastor of Riverside Church

Minister of Riverside Church to Step Down - New York Times: "Riverside Church, whose Gothic sanctuary was modeled on the Cathedral at Chartres and built with money from John D. Rockefeller Jr., has had only five senior ministers. Under each of them, it has been a center of activism, open debate and dissent.

The first, the Rev. Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, had already established himself as a prominent voice among liberal Protestants in the squabble against fundamentalists when he preached his first sermon at Riverside in 1930. The fourth, the Rev. Dr. William Sloane Coffin Jr., arrived in 1977 after crusading against the war in Vietnam in his previous post, as chaplain of Yale University.

Dr. Coffin’s successor, the Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes Jr., took the pulpit in 1989. Since then, he has welcomed Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro, and the church has held memorial services for Betty Shabazz, the widow of Malcolm X, and Paul McCartney’s first wife, Linda.

But his years at Riverside, located at 119th Street and Riverside Drive in Manhattan, have also been marked by disagreements so deep that at one point a professional mediator had to be called in, and by allegations of financial mismanagement leveled by some members of the congregation.

Dr. Forbes told that congregation yesterday that he planned to retire in June after 18 years as senior minister. He said in an interview that he wanted to concentrate on a new ministry aimed at “maximizing the witness for spiritual revitalization and the nation’s spiritual revitalization.”"


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