VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 4/21/11)—Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, an American Baptist pastor and motivational speaker, was confirmed by the United States Senate for the post of United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom on April 14, 2011. The position of the nation’s top diplomat for religious freedom had remained vacant since President Obama’s inauguration in January 2009.
On June 15, 2010, the White House originally announced that Obama had tapped Johnson Cook for the position. The nomination expired and Johnson Cook was not confirmed. Her nomination was officially re-submitted on February 7, 2011.
“Dr. Johnson Cook will bring a passion for religious liberty rooted in her American Baptist heritage along with her keen administrative skills and powerful gifts for communication to this important position,” said Dr. A. Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA.
Johnson Cook served as the founding pastor of Bronx Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in New York. Before founding that congregation, from 1983 to 1996, Johnson Cook was pastor of the historic Mariners’ Temple Baptist Church in New York – which meets on the oldest Baptist worship site in Manhattan, dating to 1795. Mariners’ Temple and Bronx Christian Fellowship are both aligned with American Baptist Churches USA, and Johnson Cook’s ordination is through the denomination.
Johnson Cook holds degrees from Emerson College, Columbia University, Union Theological Seminary and United Theological Seminary. She is the owner of Charisma Speakers and has served since 1990 as a chaplain for the New York Police Department. She advised President Clinton on race relations and also advised Obama when he was a senator. The New York Times has called her one of the best preachers in New York and described her as “Billy Graham and Oprah rolled into one.”
The ambassador-at-large position was created in 1998 by the International Religious Freedom Act, to monitor violations of religious freedom abroad and to advise the State Department on how to respond.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with 5,500 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.