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Amy Butler, first female pastor of The Riverside Church, to step down

The Rev. Amy Butler preaches at The Riverside Church in New York. Photo courtesy of The Riverside Church

(RNS) — The first female pastor to lead The Riverside Church in New York City is leaving the historic, progressive Christian church.

After five years at Riverside, the Rev. Amy Butler will not renew her contract as senior minister, according to an update from Butler and the Riverside Church Council posted on the church’s website.


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“It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to have spent five years leading the Riverside congregation,” Butler said in the update.

“I love that beautiful, beloved congregation and I believe that when we love each other, we can change the world.”

Neither the pastor nor the church council gave a reason for Butler’s departure in the update or indicated what she might do next. The update noted, “both she and our congregational leadership have been prayerfully discerning how best to fulfill the work of God in the world to which they are called.”

Butler was named pastor at Riverside in 2014. She previously served as senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and associate pastor at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, where she worked with the homeless, according to her website.

The Rev. Amy Butler greets congregants at The Riverside Church in New York during her candidacy weekend in Aug. 2014. Photo by Dave Cross Photography, courtesy of The Riverside Church

She holds degrees from Baylor University and The International Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as a doctorate of ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary.

She could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Riverside Church Council said it was “proud” of the work the church has done under Butler’s leadership.

“Our beautiful, beloved congregation is vibrant and growing, and our programs are setting the model for resourcing the needs of the progressive Christian community,” it said in the update.


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The Riverside Church is affiliated with the mainline Protestant Christian denominations American Baptist Churches USA and the United Church of Christ.

It has been influential in both religion and politics since it was founded 90 years ago on the Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick’s vision of an “interdenominational, interracial, and international church.” The church’s towering building in New York City’s Morningside Heights neighborhood was financed in part by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

The Rev. Michael Livingston will act as interim senior minister while Riverside searches for Butler’s successor.

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