Rev. James Forbes, Jr.'s Headshot

Rev. James Forbes, Jr.

- Panelist Blurb

Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. has been senior minister of The Riverside Church in Manhattan, N.Y., since 1989. With 2,400 members, The Riverside Church is an interdenominational, interracial, and international church built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1927. Forbes is the first African-American to serve as senior minister of one of the largest multicultural congregations in the nation.

In national and international religious circles, Dr. Forbes is known as the preacher's preacher because of his extensive preaching career and his charismatic style. In its March 4, 1996 issue, Newsweek magazine recognized Forbes as one of the 12 "most effective preachers" in the English-speaking world. This pastor, educator, administrator, community activist and interfaith leader was designated as one of America's greatest Black preachers by Ebony magazine in 1984 and 1993.

Well-known in the United States and abroad, in 1995 Dr. Forbes' "Healing the Spirit of America" was edited from The Davison Lectures at Warren Wilson College. In 1998 he completed a semester as the inaugural Luce Lecturer at the Harvard Divinity School, devoting his lectures to the theme of urban ministry. Also in 1998, in addition to participating in the Department of Justice Roundtable on Youth Violence at the White House, Rev. Forbes delivered the keynote address at the President's Initiative on Race meeting in New Orleans. From 1992 to the present, Dr. Forbes has been the co-chair of A Partnership of Faith, an interfaith organization among New York's Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim communities.

Rev. Forbes learned to preach and pastor in the parish. He has held pastorates at Holy Trinity Church in Wilmington, NC. from 1960-1965; at St. Paul's Holy Church in Roxboro. NC, from 1960-1969 and at St. John's United Holy Church of America in Richmond, VA. from 1965 - 1973. He also worked as campus minister for Virginia Union University in Richmond, VA, from 1968 until 1970.

Before being called to Riverside's pulpit, Dr. Forbes served from 1976-1985 as the Brown and Sockman Associate Professor of Preaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. From 1985-1989 he was Union's first Joe R. Engle Professor of Preaching.

Dr. Forbes has earned three degrees and has been awarded 13 honorary degrees. He earned a Doctorate of Ministry from Colgate-Rochester Divinity School in Rochester, NY, in 1975; a Master of Divinity Degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, NY in 1962; and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Howard University in Washington D.C. in 1957. He earned his Clinical Pastoral Education Certificate from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, VA, in 1968.

His honorary degrees include a Doctor of Divinity from Princeton University, a Doctor of Divinity from Trinity College in Hartford, CT and a Doctor of Humane Letters from DePauw University.

Rev. Forbes serves on many boards, including The Values Institute of America, the United Way, and The Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. He has received the prestigious Earle B. Pleasant Clergy of the Year Award from Religion in American Life and in 2001 Union Theological Seminary awarded him the Unitas Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Born in 1935 in Burgaw, North Carolina, Dr. Forbes is married to Bettye Franks Forbes, formerly of San Antonio, TX. They are the proud parents of one son, James A. Forbes, III.

NOTE: Bio is as it appeared in the Forum program from October 14, 2005.