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The History of the Riverside Church in the City of New York

Peter Paris, John W. Cook, James Hudnut-Beumler, Lawrence Mamiya, Judith Weisenfeld, Leonora Tisdale

Publication Year: 2004

It was from the pulpit of the Riverside Church that Martin Luther King, Jr., first publicly voiced his opposition to the Vietnam War, that Nelson Mandela addressed U.S. church leaders after his release from prison, and that speakers as diverse as Cesar Chavez, Jesse Jackson, Desmond Tutu, Fidel Castro, and Reinhold Niebuhr lectured church and nation about issues of the day. The greatest of American preachers have served as senior minister, including Harry Emerson Fosdick, Robert J. McCracken, Ernest T. Campbell, William Sloane Coffin, Jr., and James A. Forbes, Jr., and at one time the New York Times printed reports of each Sunday's sermon in its Monday morning edition.

For seven decades the church has served as the premier model of Protestant liberalism in the United States. Its history represents the movement from white Protestant hegemony to a multiracial and multiethnic church that has been at the vanguard of social justice advocacy, liberation theologies, gay and lesbian ministries, peace studies, ethnic and racial dialogue, and Jewish-Christian relations.

A collaborative effort by a stellar team of scholars, The History of the Riverside Church in the City of New York offers a critical history of this unique institution on Manhattan's Upper West Side, including its cultural impact on New York City and beyond, its outstanding preachers, and its architecture, and assesses the shifting fortunes of religious progressivism in the twentieth century.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. v-vi

A Time Line

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

A book on modern Italian church architecture assembled after the post–World War II building boom includes an image that informs our understanding of the Riverside Church and serves as an entering point to this book. ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

As the authors of this book, we wish to acknowledge our indebtedness to all those who willingly rendered their services to us in producing this work. First, we wish to thank Riverside Church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Dr.James A. Forbes, Jr., for his enthusiastic support throughout the process. The idea for this project emerged from conversations between Dr....

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pp. 1-6

The Riverside Church is often thought of as a Protestant cathedral, a national institution, a megachurch, and a multicultural congregation that continues to nurture a distinctively liberal theological tradition. Housed in a magnificent building on the Upper West Side of New York City, this church has consistently proclaimed a gospel that is both prophetic and...

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1: The Riverside Church and the Development of Twentieth-Century American Protestantism

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pp. 7-53

We could tell the story of modern American Protestantism through the lens of the Riverside Church, for few of its major themes have not been manifested in the life of this one church. In fact, Riverside has not been merely a reflector of these larger events. Rather, it often has had a leading hand in crafting the way that liberal American Protestants...

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2: Preachers for All Seasons: The Legacy of Riverside’s Free Pulpit

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pp. 55-135

For many people in the United States and elsewhere, the terms Riverside Church and excellence in preaching are synonymous. While other Protestant churches may be able to name an outstanding preacher or two in their past, the Riverside Church was founded for the preaching ministry of Harry Emerson Fosdick and has insisted throughout its history that pulpit...

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3: A Christian Vision of Unity: An Architectural History of the Riverside Church

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pp. 137-177

As people rushed toward the new Riverside Church building along River-side Drive on Sunday morning, October 5, 1930, they saw looming before them a beautiful and monumental neo-Gothic building, still in the last stages of construction. The exterior symbolized tradition, stability, elegance and expense...

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4: Universal in Spirit, Local in Character: The Riverside Church and New York City

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pp. 179-239

In the fall of 1951,Robert J. McCracken, then pastor of the Riverside Church, met with a representative of The Christian Century as the magazine was preparing a portrait of the church for its “gallery of great churches.” At one point McCracken led the reporter to a window in a room in the church’s distinctive tower, and the two looked southward, taking...

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5: The Public Witness of the Riverside Church: An Ethical Assessment

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pp. 241-277

It is very easy for liberal-minded Christians to fall in love with the Riverside Church because few churches in the world offer such a dynamic combination of architectural splendor, diverse membership, prophetic preaching, meaningful programs, ecumenical spirit, aesthetic creativity, and courageous action as does this twentieth-century phenomenon in the...

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6: Congregations within a Congregation: Contemporary Spirituality and Change at the Riverside Church

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pp. 279-343

Paul Tillich, the famous German theologian who taught at the Union Theological Seminary across the street and was an occasional visitor and lecturer at the Riverside Church, was once shown a copy of Time magazine. He looked at the table of contents, including its various categories of Arts, Entertainment, Politics, Economics, Sports, and Religion, and scoffed...

About the Contributors

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pp. 345-346


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pp. 347-350

E-ISBN-13: 9780814768648
E-ISBN-10: 0814768644
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814767139
Print-ISBN-10: 0814767133

Page Count: 400
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 794701159
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The History of the Riverside Church in the City of New York

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Subject Headings

  • Riverside Church (New York, N.Y.) -- History.
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Church history.
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