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Senior Minister Announces Retirement
Posted on Riverside Blog September 18, 2006
After 18 years of leading one of the nation’s largest interdenominational churches, The Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., announced to the congregation Sunday morning, September 17th, that he will be retiring from his position at the church on June 1, 2007. Forbes made the bittersweet announcement during Riverside's annual homecoming service, stating that he will expand a national ministry that is already underway.

As host of "The Time Is Now" on Air America Radio and its affiliates across the country, Dr. Forbes has already begun to deepen his "ministry to the nation," for which he believes he has a special call. "Serving at Riverside all these years has been a privilege," said Rev. Forbes. "I am ready now to move toward full-time commitment to a national ministry that will help heal our divisions and seek to revitalize the moral and spiritual values that are at the heart of our democratic ideal."

Public television host Bill Moyers said of Rev. Forbes, "Riverside is losing a great preacher but America is gaining what we urgently need: a prophet-at-large. While we will miss him profoundly at Riverside, I know that he will be ranging far and wide across our land, teaching and preaching as only he can." Cornel West of Princeton University said of him: "James Forbes is one of the few great prophetic Christian voices on the national and global scene."

Recognized in 1996 by Newsweek as one of the 12 "most effective preachers" in the English-speaking world, Rev. Forbes is the first African-American senior minister of The Riverside Church. In national and international religious circles, he is known as the preacher’s preacher because of his extensive preaching career and his charismatic style. He will soon be coming out with a book tentatively titled, "The Courage to Be Free."

Throughout Forbes’ tenure, which began in June 1, 1989, he has been a vocal advocate for issues of social justice and the poor, and has led Riverside in its initiatives addressing such issues, including: 9/11 forums and teach-ins (Aftershock of 9/11, Arundahti Roy anti-war speech, detainees’ rights & advocacy); Middle East peace initiatives (National Council of Churches’ religious delegation trip to Middle East); relief efforts (Katrina Fund, Tsunami Relief); Mobilization 2004 (nationwide speaking tour); and African Fellowship and hunger projects (Ghana Relief Fund, HIV-AIDS forums and teach-ins), and other events focusing on Rockefeller drug laws, labor and gay rights, youth education, and more. Riverside has a rich tradition of providing forums for important civic and spiritual leaders, and has often been chosen as the site for the world to say its goodbyes to prominent Americans. Dr. Forbes has presided over a number of historic moments, including:

• The first visit of Nelson Mandela following his release from prison, as well as a U.S. farewell tour in 2005.
• The 1999 and 2005 visits of the Dalai Lama.
• The memorial service for actor and activist Ossie Davis, which included Harry Belafonte’s account of confrontations Davis and he faced in the South during the 1960s, a musical tribute by Wynton Marsalis, and a memorial from President Bill Clinton.
• The memorial service for Malcolm X’s widow Betty Shabazz, with remembrances by Coretta Scott King and Maya Angelou.
• The memorial service for Luther Vandross, which included spirited musical tributes from Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin.
• The funeral for pioneering photographer, filmmaker, composer and writer Gordon Parks.
A national search for Forbes’ successor will be undertaken.

For a link to the NY Times article 9/18/2006 Please click here