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HomeNewsProminent New York church, sued for gender bias, moves forward with male pastor candidate

Prominent New York church, sued for gender bias, moves forward with male pastor candidate

by News7

(AP) – A search committee previously sued for gender discrimination over its hiring process has announced its pick for the next senior pastor of a prominent New York City congregation considered by some to be the flagship of the Black church in America.

Candidate Kevin R. Johnson, founding pastor of Dare to Imagine Church in Philadelphia, will be recommended for the congregation’s approval to lead the more than 200-year-old Abyssinian Baptist Church, according to an internal church memo obtained by The Associated Press. Church spokesperson LaToya Evans confirmed in a statement that the committee had made its selection.

“The Pulpit Search Committee is confident in Rev. Johnson’s ability to lead and uphold the history and legacy of our institution of faith,” said the memo, dated April 13. “We look forward to presenting the final candidate to you and will announce the date of the congregation vote in the coming days.”

No woman has ever been Abyssinian’s senior pastor; Johnson’s selection would continue that streak.

Based in Harlem, Abyssinian became a famous megachurch with the political rise of the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. perhaps the most influential of the many men who have led the congregation. Powell, pastor from 1937 to 1972, served in Congress for 26 years. Over the years, Abyssinian also has been the spiritual home of many influential New Yorkers, including longtime member and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor bringing the historic hush money case against former President Donald Trump.

If hired, Johnson would fill the top job left vacant after longtime senior pastor Calvin O. Butts III died in 2022. Johnson, 50, had served as an intern and assistant pastor under Butts. He did not respond to the AP’s request for comment but became emotional, crying during one of the Sunday services at Dare to Imagine and making reference to a letter he sent to the congregation in another.

The Rev. Eboni Marshall Turman, a Yale Divinity School professor and Butts’ former assistant pastor, was among the candidates interviewed in the pulpit search, which was criticized for being too long and lacking transparency. After not being named a finalist, Marshall Turman sued the church and the search committee in federal court for gender discrimination, an assertion the church and the committee disputed.

“The blessing of Baptist polity is that we ascribe to the distinctive of the ‘priesthood of all believers,’” Marshall Turman told the AP after learning Johnson was selected. “With the help of God, the power to call a pastor ultimately rests with the congregation. The church still has to vote.”

Johnson is a 1996 graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he took part in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Chapel Assistants program. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Education degree from Columbia University.

He founded Dare to Imagine after a contentious resignation and split with the historic Bright Hope Baptist Church in 2014.

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Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Source : ReligionNews

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