James A. Forbes - Career


From 1976-1989, Forbes taught preaching at Union Theological Seminary. In 1985 he became the first Joe R. Engle Professor of Preaching. After being called as senior minister by Riverside Church, he became an adjunct professor. Dr. Forbes also teaches at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York.

On June 1, 1989, Forbes was installed as the fifth Senior Minister of the Riverside Church, succeeding the Rev. William Sloane Coffin. Forbes was the first African American to serve as Senior Minister of one of the largest multicultural congregations in the nation. The church stands on the border of the Morningside Heights and Harlem neighborhoods, and serves an interdenominational congregation.

He helped support Pernessa C. Seele's efforts with the first years of the Harlem Week of Prayer for Healing of AIDS, the start of a national movement to deal with public health issues through communities of faith. She founded the Balm in Gilead, Inc., which continues the work with thousands of congregations such as Riverside Church.

Forbes also brought Riverside Church to play a role in the redevelopment of Harlem, with the consortium of churches in Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement.

He brought his charismatic gift of preaching to the congregation and attracted new members.

Rev. Forbes participated in a Drum Major Institute-sponsored event titled, "The Power of Restorative Justice with San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey".

On June 1, 2007, after 18 years of service, Forbes officially retired from this position to become president of the Healing of the Nations Foundation, a national ministry of healing and spiritual revitalization.

In 2009, Forbes authored the book, Who's Gospel: A Concise Guide to Progressive Protestantism, in which he offers a compelling vision of progressive social change and addresses the most crucial issues of our time -- poverty, war, women’s equality, racial justice, sexuality, and the environment.

Forbes hosted the radio program The Time Is Now, which aired weekends on the Air America Radio network until July 28, 2007.

He is a member of Chi Phi fraternity.

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