Commencement: Baccalaureate Speaker

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Baccalaureate Speaker:

The Rev. Dr. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock

The Rev. Dr. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock is currently the senior pastor of historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, spiritual home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As senior pastor, through several cutting-edge ministries, Dr. Warnock has enhanced the Church’s legacy of social activism.  He has provided ministry to urban men through both a barbershop ministry called “Cutting Thru Crisis” and a series of Bible studies held in a local car wash.  Newsweek magazine covered this unconventional approach to ministry in an article titled, “For Those Who’ve Fallen, Salvation Amid the Suds.”  Since 2005, under Dr. Warnock’s leadership, several new ministries have been launched, more than 3,000 new members have joined Ebenezer, and more than $5 million in capital improvements have been made to the educational building and Horizon Sanctuary.  In addition, he led the fund raising campaign that financed the $8.5 million Martin Luther King, Sr. Community Resources Complex.  The Complex houses Ebenezer’s administrative offices, fellowship hall, classrooms, meeting rooms, a cyber café and an MLK collaborative of five nonprofit partners including Operation HOPE, Casey Family Programs, Catholic Charities, The Center for Working Families and the Educational Foundation.  

As a pastor, Dr. Warnock has a distinguished history in ministry. The son of two Pentecostal pastors, he responded to his call to ministry at an early age, and was blessed to study and serve at leading congregations known for their deep spiritual roots and strong public witness.  Early in his ministry, Dr. Warnock served as an intern at the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where he was ordained by the Rev. Dr. John T. Porter, who himself had strong ties to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. Dr. Warnock also served for six years as the youth pastor and four years as assistant pastor at the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church of New York City – also one of the nation’s leading congregations.  Prior to taking the helm of Ebenezer, Dr. Warnock immersed himself in the challenges of 21st century urban ministry while serving for four and a half years as the senior pastor of Baltimore’s Douglas Memorial Community Church, also a spiritual base for social activism.  At the age of 35, Dr. Warnock became the fifth and youngest person called to the senior pastorate of historic Ebenezer, “America’s Freedom Church.”

As a pastor activist, Dr. Warnock has defended voting rights in his home state of Georgia, and in 2006, when Louisiana failed to protect the right to vote for recent Katrina evacuees, he led a “freedom caravan” of citizens back to New Orleans to vote.  Through his preaching and public advocacy, Dr. Warnock has taken on contradictions in the criminal justice system.  Along with many others, he stood up for Troy Davis, Trayvon Martin, and Genarlow Wilson. As a result of his strong activism and preaching power, Dr. Warnock has been listed by Ebony magazine as one of “Thirty Leaders of the Future,” listed by Rainbow PUSH Coalition as one of “God’s Trombones” and named a “A Man of Influence” by the Atlanta Business League. At President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama’s request, Dr. Warnock delivered the closing prayer at the 2013 Inaugural Prayer Service held at Washington National Cathedral.  
The Rev. Dr. Warnock graduated from Morehouse College cum laude in 1991, receiving a bachelor of arts degree in psychology.  He also holds a master of divinity degree, a master of philosophy degree and a doctor of philosophy degree in systematic theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.  He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and 100 Black Men of Atlanta, Inc. and a lifetime member of the NAACP.  Dr. Warnock is a graduate of the Leadership Program sponsored by the Greater Baltimore Committee, a graduate of the Summer Leadership Institute of Harvard University and a graduate of Leadership Atlanta.  His first book is titled “The Divided Mind of the Black Church: Theology, Piety & Public Witness” (NYU Press, 2014).