Power, Prestige, and the Riverside Pulpit

Brian Worley


See the fascinating USA Today story: Pastor quits Riverside Church after 2 months…PS: I promise you (especially secularist’s) that a little digging here in some religious history will be beneficial to you….you should read the links!

No pun intended, but Riverside Church is rich in history! For a church that doesn’t change pastors THAT often, it was strange to see Rev. Brad Braxton out after only two months! He was only the 6th senior minister in the history of the church.

Who knows what really happened? But it probably had something to do with power. Let us look at this section of the USA Today story:

Betty Davis, a Riverside member who was on the committee that selected Braxton, told Religion and Ethics Newsweekly recently that "as soon as his name was announced, the attacks started. One of the things that some people are afraid of is that the church will turn black. And, you know, I really resent that."

Braxton's evangelical and scripturally focused preaching was also an issue, which some saw as a threat to Riverside's open and inclusive reputation.

I would think that Betty Davis' view probably has merit and that the real issue was about the direction of his preaching. This seems to say (in my opinion) that a more scripturally toned direction of their pulpit just wasn’t welcomed (fundies lost a battle here)!

I want to draw attention to perhaps one of the most influential liberal Christian minister's of history that once occupied the Riverside pulpit. Some of the old time preachers today will still rail against the deceased liberal minister, Harry Emerson Fosdick of the famed Riverside Church that John D. Rockefeller Jr. helped to build on Manhattan's Upper West Side in 1927. Fosdick was front and center in the fundamentalist/liberal struggle within Christianity!

I want you to see a portion of Wikipedia’s clip about Fosdick and one of his more important sermons:

While at First Presbyterian Church, on May 21, 1922, he delivered his famous sermon “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”, in which he defended the modernist position. In that sermon, he presented the Bible as a record of the unfolding of God’s will, not as the literal Word of God. He saw the history of Christianity as one of development, progress, and gradual change. To the fundamentalists, this was rank apostasy, and the battle lines were drawn.

I wish I were privy to an “establishment” conversation pondering the direction of Christianity. If I had a say, I would say that John D. was correct with choosing the visionary liberal Fosdick over those today that seem to emphasize the fundamentalist brand of Christianity. Fosdick

“presented the Bible as a record of the unfolding of God’s will, not as the literal Word of God.”

I would go as far as saying that if Fosdick’s brand of Christianity were prevalent, the world would be a much better place today! Christianity zigged when I think they should have zagged! Who knows, but I probably wouldn’t see the need to blog or have my website today; it is the fundamentalist’s that largely give Christianity the bad name today because everything is based upon their interpretation of scripture rather than Fosdick’s!

Hindsight they say is 20/20; I can only speak for myself but the big gripe that I have with Christianity is for all the negative, destructive things that happens under it's name. Usually this has a fundamentalist behind the scene of the crime like Falwell, Robertson, Terry, Phelps, etc. etc. The chickens have come home to roost as they say....please pass this on to the next clergy member that cries out against the secular humanist attack upon religion! John D. was right!

I hope someone else found this clip interesting?

***Something that I and EVERYONE ELSE missed about John D. Rockefeller....I address this in the middle of a recent article on abortion within this section The “Sleight of Hand” That Nearly Everyone Missed – How a Baptist Group & Rockefeller Money Weakened Christianity   The significance will be of great importance to a conservative!!! ***



Brian Worley     July 3, 2009 updated August 10, 2014     Ex-minister.org     All rights reserved!


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