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Ebenezer Baptist Pastor Emeritus Will Join Faculty, Head Preaching Center at Columbia Theological Seminary


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE OCTOBER 20, 2008 Decatur, GA—The Rev. Dr. Joseph L. Roberts, Jr., pastor emeritus of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, will join the faculty of Columbia Theological Seminary early next year as the Wade P. Huie Professor of Preaching. The appointment is for a three-year term, during which Roberts will provide leadership for the seminary’s new Center for Preaching. Roberts is the first person to hold the Huie chair. That position and the Center for Preaching were funded by a generous gift from William S. Morris family of Augusta, GA. Senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church for 30 years, Roberts is known nationwide as an energetic preacher and a skilled administrator. During his tenure at Ebenezer, the congregation grew by more than 2,000 new members and financial giving increased more than 300 percent. Roberts also launched an expansive community outreach program that included the Teenage Mother’s Ministry, a tutoring program, counseling, a food co-op, and a seniors’ daycare center. In addition, he is an accomplished musician. Roberts’s book, Sideswiped by Eternity: Sermons from Ebenezer Baptist Church, was published in 2006 by Westminster/John Knox Press. Joanna Adams, pastor of Atlanta’s Morningside Presbyterian Church and a Columbia graduate, served on the seminary’s Board of Trustees for 15 years, and as its chair from 1996 to 2001. “What a coup for Columbia,” Adams says. “Dr. Roberts is one of the most gifted and respected preachers alive today. He will bring a wealth of wisdom, intellect, experience, and skill to his new post, and the church of the future will be mightily blessed by the fruits of his labors.” Roberts is a native of Chicago and a cum laude graduate of Knoxville College, in Knoxville, TN. He received the Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City and the Master of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. Before coming to Ebenezer, he worked in various administrative positions in the Presbyterian Church, U.S., and was pastor of Weequahic Presbyterian Church and Elmwood United Presbyterian Church in New Jersey. He is the recipient of numerous honors from civic, social, and religious organizations. He has been listed in Ebony magazine as an outstanding clergy person, and five institutions have honored him with the Doctor of Divinity degree. In 2004, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from both Union and Princeton seminaries. He serves on several board and committees both locally and nationally. Columbia trustee and alumnus Joseph Harvard served on the search committee for the Huie chair. Harvard, who is pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Durham, NC, says, “With roots in both the Presbyterian and Baptist denominations, Joe Roberts brings to this position unique insights into Protestant Christianity in this country. We are delighted that he has accepted Columbia’s call to provide leadership for the development of our new Center for Preaching.” Wade Huie, in whose honor the position was established, says, “Joe Roberts's strong pastoral and prophetic preaching during his long and fruitful ministry with both Presbyterian and Baptist churches equip him in a special way to lead our new Center for Preaching. His teaching will enhance and enrich the preaching of the students and ministers at Columbia Seminary. I am truly delighted and honored to have him occupy a chair bearing my name.” Columbia Theological Seminary, located in Decatur, Georgia, was established in 1828 and is one of 10 theological institutions of the Presbyterian Church (USA). 

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