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Home | ReligionMakers | Reverend Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr.
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Color: brown
Food: chicken
Quote: All things work together for good
Season: Autumn
Birthplace
Burgaw, North Carolina
Interview Description:

Biography |

Interview Date: 9/21/2016

Reverend Dr. James A. Forbes was born on September 6, 1935 in Burgaw, North Carolina to James A. Forbes, Sr. and Mabel Clemons Forbes. One of eight children, Forbes grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. He received his B.S. degree in chemistry from Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1957. At Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, Forbes wrote his master’s thesis on Pentecostalism and the Renewal of the Church and obtained his M.Div. degree in 1962. In 1975, Forbes earned his D.Min. degree from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York.

Following his graduate studies at Union Theological Seminary, Forbes returned to Raleigh, North Carolina where he worked briefly in his father’s church, Providence United Holy Church, and participated in sit-ins at Woolworth’s lunch counters. In 1962, Forbes became assistant pastor at Olin Binkly Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and went on to pastor Holy Trinity Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, St. Paul’s Holy Church in Roxboro, North Carolina, and St. John’s United Holy Church of America in Richmond, Virginia. In 1968, Forbes earned his Clinical Pastoral Education Certificate from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, and worked as campus minister for Virginia Union University in Richmond. In 1971, Forbes became director of education for Interfaith Metropolitan Theological Education Inc. in Washington, D.C. Forbes joined the faculty at Union Theological Seminary as its Brown and Sockman Associate Professor of Preaching, and teaching alongside James H. Cone, Forbes became Union Theological Seminary’s first Joe R. Engle Professor of Preaching in 1985.

In 1986, Forbes gave the Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale University, informing his 1989 publication, The Holy Spirit & Preaching. Union Theological Seminary named Forbes the first Harry Emerson Fosdick Adjunct Professor of Preaching in 1989, the same year he was installed as fifth Senior Minister of Riverside Church in New York City. His installment rendered him the first African American Senior Minister of one of the largest multicultural and interdenominational congregations in the U.S. In 1996, Newsweek recognized Forbes as one of the 12 “most effective preachers” in the English-speaking world. Following his address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, Forbes led an interfaith rally and demonstration at Riverside Church as part of the Church’s Mobilization 2004 campaign. In 2007, he formed the Healing of the Nations Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit, national ministry of healing and spiritual revitalization. That same year, Forbes retired as Senior Minister Emeritus of Riverside Church. He authored Whose Gospel?: A Concise Guide to Progressive Protestantism in 2009.

In addition to his ministry, Forbes hosted a progressive talk radio program, The Time Is Now, which aired weekends on Air America until 2007. Forbes has received numerous honorary degrees, including D.D. degrees from Princeton University, Trinity College, Colgate University and University of Richmond.

Forbes is married to Bettye Franks Forbes, founder of Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble, Inc. Together they have one son, James A. Forbes III.

Reverend Dr. James A. Forbes was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 21, 2016.

Speaker Bureau Notes: