Dr. Forrest E. Harris, Sr. President of American Baptist College. Twenty-eight years in theological education and as Director of Black Church Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Professor Forrest E. Harris has become nationally recognized as being one of the most progressive scholars, theological educators and visionary for prophetic Christianity in the Black Church tradition. Harris holds a B.A. from Knoxville College, Th.B. from American Baptist College, M. Div. and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Vanderbilt University Divinity School where he was a Benjamin E. Mays Fellow and received the Florence Conwell prize for preaching. Harris is accredited with the distinction of making a significant contribution to the academy and the church by bridging academic theology with the practical ministry needs of the church.
Since 1988 Professor Harris led the Divinity School’s Kelly Miller Smith Institute on Black Church Studies to national acclaim as the only such Institute with a $1.8 million dollar endowment in the country. With grants from major foundations totaling over $4 million dollars, Harris coordinated a national ecumenical dialogue involving over 12,000 people, launched a Theology and Ministry Project for congregations and established Vanderbilt Divinity School as institutional host for the first online Lectionary for African American churches.
Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, Professor Harris was a Federal Compliance Officer with the Energy and Research Development Administration where as a compliance officer he received a Special Achievement Certificate Cash Award for negotiating a $1.2 million affected class remedy for minorities and females in the Southeast United States.
Harris is the author of Ministry for Social Crisis: Theology and Praxis in the Black Church Tradition, Mercer University Press. In the anthology, Walk Together Children, Black and Womanist Theologies, Church and Theological Education, Harris’ essay “The Children Have Come to Birth: The Black church’s Theological Response for Survival and Quality of Life” received national recognition. He also authored the essay, “The Black Church Influence on Dietrich Bonheoffer,” written in support of Journey Films 2006 broadcast on the film Dietrich Bonheoffer on PBS stations nationwide, and received a journalism prize, cash award from The Journal of Intergroup Relations, National Association of Human Rights Workers for his article, “South Africa beyond Apartheid,” The Journal of Intergroup Relations, the National Association of Human Rights Workers.
As a member of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians, Harris delivered papers in Johannesburg, South Africa, and as a member of the Human Rights Commission of the Baptist World Alliance, traveled to Hong Kong, Durban, South Africa where he delivered papers on human rights, global and ethnic conflict and coordinating global panel discussions religious freedom in Mexico City, Ghana, and Amsterdam.
A champion for social justice, Dr. Harris made headlines when he invited a lesbian clergy woman to speak at American Baptist College.
It’s sad that people use religion and idolatry of the Bible to demoralize same-gender-loving people
Read more: tennessean.com/story/news/2015/03/10/pastors-oppose-lesbian-bishop-at-baptist-college