Howard, M. William Jr. 1946–
M. William Howard, Jr. 1946–
M. William Howard, Jr. has been involved in civil rights and racial justice issues for most of his adult life, and has served at local, national, and world levels in his ecumenical work. From his days at Morehouse College and the civil rights movements of the 1960s, his service in key positions with the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches, and his position as head of the New York Theological Institute, he has constantly worked to better the lives of millions of people. Howard has met many influential people and world leaders, and has traveled throughout the world. He has had his addresses and writing published in magazines, journals, newsletters, and newspapers, has appeared on a number of television and radio shows, and has received several honorary degrees, keys to cities, and awards.
Moses William Howard, Jr. was born on March 3, 1946, in Americus, Georgia, to M. William Howard and Laura (Turner) Howard. He attended segregated Sumter High School in Americus and graduated in 1963. During the turbulent 1960s, Howard took part in African American demonstrations for civil rights, and was a follower of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and served as a researcher on the autobiography of Benjamin E. Mays. Mays was a nationally noted educator and the sixth president of Morehouse College. He was also a mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a 1948 Morehouse College graduate. Howard received his bachelor of arts degree from Morehouse in 1968. He married Barbara Jean Wright in 1970 and the couple would have three children. Howard received his master of divinity degree in 1972 from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey and was ordained in the American Baptist Church in 1974.
Howard’s clerical career began in 1970 when he became associate pastor for the First Baptist Church in Princeton, New Jersey, where he served for two years. He also served as the chaplain for United Campus Ministry at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey from 1971 to 1972. That year, he became the executive director of the African American Council for the Reformed Church in America, and would go on to serve for 20 years as a member of the national staff. Having grown up in the South, Howard was familiar with racism and segregation. As he told Christianity Today, “If I were to say that picking cotton in the hot sun in southwest Georgia, and hearing grandmothers being referred to as ’girl’ by teen-age, white men has not informed my ministry, I would be telling you a lie.”
In 1974 Howard began his association with the National Council of Churches (NCC), a community of Protestant and Eastern Orthodox member church bodies. The council maintains programs dealing with religious and social issues, including civil rights, domestic social justice, worldwide relief and development, Christian education, and many other areas. Howard would serve in several leadership capacities. He was moderator of the Third World Peoples Conference on Development, and served as Chair, Commission on Justice, Liberation and Human Fulfillment from 1974 to 1978. During this time he also served the World Council of Churches, become an advisor to the Fifth Assembly,
Born March 3, 1946 in Americus, GA; son of Moses William Howard, Sr., and Laura (Turner) Howard; wife’s name Barbara Jean (Wright) Howard; children: Mathew Weldon, Adam Turner, Maisha Wright. Education: Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA, B.A. 1968; Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ, MDiv, 1972.
Career: Associate pastor, First Baptist Church, Princeton, NJ, 1970-72; chaplain, United Campus Ministry, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, 1971-72; executive director, African-American Council, Reformed Church in America, 1972-92; president, New York-Theological Seminary, New York, NY, 1992-99; pastor, Bethany Baptist Church, Newark, NJ, 1999-
Selected awards: Toussaint L’Ouverture Freedom Award, Haitian Community, 980; Distinguished Alumnus Award, Princeton Theological Seminary, 1982; New JerseyCitizen Action Award “International Human Rights Activist, “1985; Outstanding Achievement Award, New York City NAACP, 1993.
Selected memberships: Board of trustees, Trenton State College; The Children’s Defense Fund; National Urban League; president, North American Regional Conference on Action Against Apartheid; president, American Committee on Africa; U.S. General Services Administration Steering Committee for the African Burial Ground.
Addresses: Office— Bethany Baptist Church, 275 W. Market St., Newark, NJ. 07103.
Nairobi, Kenya, and participated in a Pre-Assembly youth meeting in Tanzania. Howard also served for two years as the moderator for the Commission on the Program to Combat Racism. The World Council of Churches, which was founded in 1948, is an international fellowship of more than 330 churches, denominations, and fellowships in 100 countries and territories throughout the world with about 400 million Christians as members. It was formed to serve and advance the ecumenical movement.
During Pope John Paul ll’s visit to the United States in 1979, Howard read the Gospel during an ecumenical service. That same year, he became the youngest person and the second African American president of the NCC, the largest ecumenical body in the nation. By 2000 the membership rolls of the NCC had increased to 35 Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican member churches with nearly 52 million congregants. When Howard became president of the NCC his goal, among others, was to strengthen the existing racial and social justice programs. In a Christianity Today article, he was referred to as “a specialist in racial justice” for his work in the movement against apartheid in South Africa. When Howard’s term as president of the NCC ended, he served for two years as chair of the Information Committee. He also became a delegate of World Consultation on Racism in the Netherlands.
During the 1980s Howard served as a member on several committees or boards, including the American Cancer Society, People for the American Way, Trenton State College, the Children’s Defense Fund, and the National Urban League. In the fight against apartheid, he served as Chairman on the United Nations Seminar Against Bank Loans to South Africa. When Reverend Jesse Jackson made his bid for the presidency of the United States in 1984, Howard served as floor leader at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. That same year, he served as president of the North American Regional Conference on Action Against Apartheid, the largest United Nations-sponsored conference of anti-apartheid activities ever held in the United States and Canada. Howard served as president of the board of directors for the American Committee on Africa, and presented testimonies on southern Africa and human rights issues before the U.S. Congress and the United Nations. In 1990, he was chairman of the Religious Sub-Committee of the New York Nelson Mandela Welcome Committee.
Howard has also served in several special assignments. In 1979, he conducted Christmas services for U.S. Embassy personnel held hostage in Teheran, Iran. In 1980, Howard chaired a fact-finding mission to the Middle East and held talks with King Hussein of Jordan, Menachem Begin, Shimon Peres, and Teddy Kolleck of Israel. He has traveled extensively to serve in various ecumenical capacities and has visited Armenia, Bermuda, Canada, Cuba, Egypt, Germany, Great Britain, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Iran, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, The Netherlands, Peoples Republic of China, Puerto Rico, Russia, Somalia, South Africa, Switzerland, Syria, and Zimbabwe. He headed the National Council of Churches’ first post-revolution delegation to Cuba in 1977. In 1984, Howard chaired a delegation led by Reverend Jesse Jackson that obtained the release of a U.S. Navy pilot who was shot down and taken prisoner during a bombing mission over Lebanon.
In 1992 Howard became president of New York Theological Seminary (NYTS), beginning an eight-year tenure with the graduate school of theology. Under his leadership NYTS, the largest Christian seminary in the state of New York with nearly 500 students, was accredited for a ten-year period by the Association of Theological Schools. In addition, the school’s information systems and technology departments received two comprehensive upgrades, the board of trustees was reorganized and strengthened, the endowment was almost doubled, new teaching programs were inaugurated, and the seminary partnered with two universities in New York to offer joint programs for the master of divinity degree in urban studies and social work. Howard answered the call to pastor Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey in 2000. He told the New York Amsterdam News, “God’s sending me to Bethany feels like the next logical step in the progression of my ministry—closer to people and the challenges they face.”
Christianity Today, December 1, 1978, p. 48.
Ebony, March 1994, p. 92.
New York Amsterdam News, September 23, 1999, p. 44.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from the National Council of Churches web site at www.yearbooknews.com/html/nccusa.html; informational materials from the New York Theological Seminary; the Pullen Library of the Georgia State University web site at wwwlib.gsu.edu; and the World Council of Churches web site at www.wcc-coe.org
—Sandy J. Stiefer
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