The story below was originally published by Associated Baptist Press News/Religious Herald. The original article can be viewed here.
Washington, D.C., pastor Amy Butler is a search committee’s candidate to be the next senior minister at Riverside Church in New York City, one of the most prominent congregations in mainline Protestantism.
The search committee’s selection of Butler, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, was announced April 27. Calvary Baptist Church is affiliated with a number of Baptist denominations and organizations, including American Baptist Churches USA. The first woman pastor in the church’s history, Butler will be formally introduced to the congregation May 4, with a vote expected June 8.
Since it opened its doors in 1930, Riverside has been a bastion of progressive Christianity. Officially affiliated with both the American Baptist Churches USA and the United Church of Christ, it describes itself as interdenominational. The church’s neo-gothic tower is a visible landmark in its Manhattan neighborhood which includes Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary. Its pastors — including Harry Emerson Fosdick, William Sloane Coffin and James Forbes Jr. — have been influential voices in American theological and political life.
Butler, 44, who has been Calvary’s pastor for 11 years, said that legacy of great preaching and prophetic witness drew her to Riverside and its 1,600 members.
“I have begun to wonder what mark an institution like Riverside might make on the future expression of church,” she was quoted as saying in a letter distributed by the search committee. “This wondering is so exciting to me! Riverside’s diversity raises the potential of modeling how we live with and relate to one another. The human community is messy and sometimes painful. But to live into a vision of love within the tension of uncertainty and difference can be stunningly transformational. The possibilities are so great — small glimpses of God’s imagination and intent for the whole world!”
Butler is a graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and the International Baptist Theological Seminary, now located in Prague, Czech Republic, and holds the doctor of ministry degree from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. She is a bi-weekly columnist for ABPnews/Herald.
Before becoming pastor at Calvary, Butler worked with the homeless community in New Orleans and served as associate pastor at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church there.
A native of Hawaii, she has three children — one in college and two in high school.
Calvary Baptist, where Butler has served since 2003, is a historic church in which the Northern Baptist Convention (now ABCUSA) was founded in 1907.
In the April 27 announcement, search committee co-chair Christian Rojas said Butler was “prayerfully, deliberately and in the end unanimously” chosen following a 22-month period of “listening” to the congregation.
“We are convinced that she will be an inspired and inspiring minister for our beloved Riverside Church,” Rojas said.
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