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

350 pages

49 illustrations

May, 2004

ISBN: 9780814767139



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Peter J. Paris is Elmer G. Homrighausen Professor of Christian Social Ethics, and liaison with the Princeton University Afro-American Studies Program, at Princeton Theological Seminary.

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John W. Cook is a former president of the Henry Luce Foundation, Inc.

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James Hudnut-Beumler is Dean of the Divinity School and Anne Potter Wilson Professor of American Religious History at Vanderbilt University. 

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Lawrence H. Mamiya is Paschall-Davis Professor of Religion and Africana Studies at Vassar College.

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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.


  • ”The authors describe the complex congregation in exceedingly careful detail, including a number of archival photographs that bring the narrative to life. Unlike so many congregational histories, difficult periods of tension and conflict are presented alongside feel-good rehearsals of the glory days....The authors and the congregation should be commended for this unique contribution to the field of congregational studies. The research is comprehensive.”

    Sociology of Religion

  • "There is much to commend it, and my students will be glad to find such a readable book on their syllabi."

    Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

  • "This is an excellent scholarly resource on liberal Protestant church history and is recommended for all congregational libraries."

    Church and Synagogue Libraries

  • "A critical history, not a jingoistic celebration....scholarly volume."