The Rev. Dr. Alfred Johnson Becomes Director of C-SPUR at NYTS

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The Rev. Dr. Alfred Johnson has been appointed Director of the Center for the Study and Practice of Urban Religion (C-SPUR) at New York Theological Seminary (NYTS) as of September 1, 2017.  He will be serving in the position on a part-time basis.

Dr. Johnson is a retired bishop of the United Methodist Church (UMC).  He is the former presiding bishop of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference which covers all of New Jersey and several counties in New York State.  After retirement from the active episcopacy he served in pastoral ministry at The Church of the Village in Manhattan and Jones Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, the last African American congregation in that city.  He has also served as a former trustee of New York Theological Seminary

C-SPUR offers research, interactive teaching, training, collaboration, and consultation on matters concerning urban religion and practice.  Founded in 2004 by the late Lowell W. Livezey, the Center was initially known as Ecologies of Learning before changing its name in 2009.  Programs of the Center are designed to reach beyond the classroom to engage scholars and practitioners in urban contextual learning experiences, and to increase public understanding and appreciation of the contributions of religion to the wider urban context. Classroom and community are inseparably bound in the work of C-SPUR to increase and better effectuate ministry in diverse urban environments.

“I am delighted to have a national leader of Dr. Johnson’s caliber directing the work of C-SPUR,” said Dale T. Irvin, President of NYTS.  “He continues the legacy of leadership that began with Lowell W. Livezey and continued on with E. Lee Hancock and Moses O. Biney.  We look forward to the next phase of the life of C-SPUR as it continues to shed new light on urban ministry and urban religion, reshaping our theology of the city.”

“I am enthusiastically appreciative of this opportunity to continue fulfilling the passionate call of the Spirit to help shape the soul of the City, God’s special launching pad for spiritual and temporal transformation,” said Alfred Johnson.

In addition to directing interactive learning experiences such as the annual “Jazz in the City” program offered each June, C-SPUR will also be redeveloping an on-line resource center and sponsoring other events through the year.  Dr. Johnson is available for consultation or as a speaker.  C-SPUR will also continue to serve as a research center for other members of the NYTS faculty and for scholars from other institutions who seek to make use of its resources as they engage in research involving urban religion.

For more information, contact Dr. Alfred Johnson at NYTS at (212) 870-1202 or by email at



AJohnson Alfred Johnson, DMin

Director of the Center for the Study and Practice of Urban Religion at NYTS

Alfred Johnson currently serves as Research Professor of Urban Religion and Director of the Center for the Study and Practice of Urban Religion (C-SPUR) at New York Theological Seminary (NYTS).  He previously served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Seminary from 2005 to 2014, and chaired the Committee on Trustees. He has served as an Adjunct Professor at NYTS as well, teaching in the field of urban ministry and working with the Supervised Ministry program.

Dr. Johnson was elected a bishop of the United Methodist Church (UMC) in 1996 and assigned to the New Jersey Episcopal Area, presiding over two UM Annual Conferences, which comprised 600 congregations. Through his leadership, the two conferences, Northern and Southern NJ Conferences, united to become the Greater NJ Conference. After retirement from active episcopacy in 2004, he pastored, organized, and consolidated three churches in the Greenwich Village neighborhood in New York City to form “The Church of the Village: A Progressive UMC.” Prior to his election to the episcopacy, Dr. Johnson was pastor of several churches in the Philadelphia, PA area; Director of the Community Action Council, Inc. in Chester, PA.; Conference Staff Consultant; Executive Director of the UM Metro Ministries, Inc.; and District Superintendent.  In 2015, he was strategically chosen to become the interim pastor to the last historic African-American UM congregation in San Francisco, CA, which was facing complex challenges.  In 2017 he returned to New York to assume leadership of C-SPUR.

Born in Philadelphia, PA and a product of the public school system, Bishop Johnson received degrees from the Community College of Philadelphia (Associate in Arts); Albright College (Bachelor of Arts in Social Welfare); Boston University School of Theology (Master of Theology); and Wesley Theological Seminary (Doctor in Ministry in Urban Ministry). He also was awarded two honorary doctorates, from Albright College and Centenary College. He has also completed studies in human relations, group dynamics, and leadership at the Princeton Theological School of Continuing Education, and in leadership and organizational development at New York University School of Professional Studies.

Dr. Johnson has taught or lectured at a number of theological schools, including Princeton Theological Seminary, Drew Theological School, and Claremont School of Theology.  He has served as Dean of the Bishop Melvin G. Talbert Leadership Institute of National Black Methodists for Church Renewal, a 3 year national program to train multi-ethnic young adults in leadership skills for the future.  Among his numerous speaking engagements he has been speaker and workshop leader for the national United Methodist Urban Summit, and keynote speaker for the Bi-District Urban Pastor Training program of the Connecticut/Western Massachusetts Districts of the New England Annual UM Conference.  He was featured in Meeting God at the Boundaries: A Manual for Church Leaders by Lucia Ann McSpadden (2011).

Dr. Johnson is married to the Rev. Sherrie Dobbs Johnson, who writes for UMC publications, is a retired UMC clergyperson, and is a proud NYTS alumna.


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