Nation's Oldest Ecumenical Council of Churches Installs New Head

NEW YORK – The Rev. A.R. Bernard, founding senior pastor of Christian Cultural Center, was officiated as the new president of the Council of Churches of the City of New York Thursday night, during an installation service where speakers called for the revival of the Church.

Bernard takes the reigns of CCCNY, the nation's oldest ecumenical council of churches, from the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III who served as president for the past 10 years. Butts is pastor of the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.

Speaking from the stage of his Brooklyn megachurch, Bernard said the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who by aligning his opinions with that of the black church, has sparked a dialogue on what the church truly is.

"It's an opportunity for us to clearly define who we are," he told a responsive and enthusiastic crowd. We are not the white church, black church, or Asian church but "The Church," said Bernard.

His words echoed a rousing sermon given earlier in the three-hour service by the Rev. Elder Bernice A. King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who received a standing ovation before and afterwards.

She said it was no coincidence that it was her first time delivering a sermon since she visited the site of her father's assassination 40 years ago.

Reading from Scripture, King said it took 40 years for the situation to overturn for the beggar at the Beautiful Gate in Acts 3. It also took that long for the Israelites to enter Canaan Land from the time of Moses to Joshua.

King pointed out that it has been 40 years since God spoke through "prophet King" and challenged "the church" to posture themselves so that God can bring change to the status quo.

To "bring Christ into culture" is what this installation is about, she said.

Joining Bernard on the executive seats were vice presidents of the Council G. Morris Gurley, attorney/banker; Bishop Norman N. Quick of the Church of God in Christ; and the Rev. Arabella Meadows-Rogers, executive presbyter of the Presbytery of New York City.

The Rev. N. J. L'Heureux, Jr., executive director of the Queens Federation of Churches, was re-elected as secretary. The Rev. Dr. Adolfo Carrion III, superintendent emeritus of the Spanish Eastern District of the Assemblies of God, was elected treasurer.

Each of newly installed officers received a certificate of installation, Bible, constitution of CCCNY, and a map of New York City. Bernard was additionally bestowed the presidential stool, which Executive Director Emeritus Dr. John Hiemstra described as representing "the yoke of Christ'" as he placed it over Bernard.

Several elected officials, including two legislators and two Borough presidents, attended Thursday's service and gave congratulatory remarks to Bernard.

Bernard, who founded CCC in 1978, also founded Brooklyn Preparatory School (BPS) in New York City in 1993. He also sits on the current New York City Economic Development Corporation Board.

He is recognized by several New York publications and magazines for his work in African American and Christian communities in New York. Bernard is the host of two weekly television broadcasts, "Faith in Practice with A.R. Bernard" and "The A.R. Bernard Show," and nationally syndicated radio broadcasts.