New York City Council

New York’s elected officials who are also members of the clergy

New York’s tradition of elected officials who are also members of the clergy

New York Assemblyman Michael Blake preaching.

New York Assemblyman Michael Blake preaching. Submitted

Albany is considering eliminating the religious exemption to vaccinating children. New York City Council members are asking the mayor to devote more funding to providing security for houses of worship. And every Democratic presidential contender is stopping in Harlem to visit with the Rev. Al Sharpton.

These are interesting times for religion and politics in New York, particularly so for the politicians in the state who are also religious leaders with their own congregations.

“Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s,” the noted rabbi and political leader Jesus Christ once said – but these elected officials are on the receiving end of both.

Current

New York City Councilman Fernando Cabrera at New Life Outreach International Church, which he founded in 1988.
New Life Church

Ruben Diaz Sr. – The socially conservative Bronx city councilman and former state senator has been the pastor of the Christian Community Neighborhood Church and its roughly 100 congregants since 1976.  “I cannot separate myself from myself,” he told City & State. “I am the church, and I am the state.”

Fernando Cabrera – This Bronx city councilman founded New Life Outreach International Church in his borough in 1988 and preaches to its 500 worshippers with his wife and co-pastor Elvia. Cabrera’s office told City & State his jobs are “two separate platforms to bring change and transformation to our community.”

Al Taylor – The Manhattan assemblyman has been pastor at Infinity Mennonite Church in Harlem since 2009. He has about 100 congregants, and in 2016 he completed a 780-mile prayer walk from New York to Chicago. Taylor told City & State that his political and religious lives inform one another: “My faith helps me lead compassionately and fight for what I believe is right, while my role as a public servant helps me carry out my calling.”

Michael Blake – The Bronx assemblyman was certified as a lay minister as a teenager in 1995 for the United Methodist Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Blake doesn’t have his own congregation, but he can minister, preach, and officiate weddings and funerals. His office told City & State his religion “drives his values” but that he “wouldn’t impose his religion on others in political work.”

Waylyn Hobbs Jr. – The deputy mayor of the village of Hempstead, population 55,000, shows that pastors don’t just aim for high-profile political jobs. Bishop Waylyn Hobbs Jr. has led the Coney Island Cathedral in Brooklyn since the mid-1990s.

Past pastors

Former central Brooklyn Assemblyman Karim Camara, the pastor of Abundant Life Church, who now leads Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services.
Submitted

Some pastors tried politics, then left it behind, like former central Brooklyn Assemblyman Karim Camara, the pastor of Abundant Life Church, who left the state Legislature in 2015 to lead Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services. That was a small office to give up compared to former Rep. Floyd Flake, who retired from his Southeast Queens congressional seat in 1997 to focus more on his job as senior pastor of Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral. Before Flake, there was Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who lost reelection in 1970. A year earlier, he had retired as pastor of the influential Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem after 33 years. Wendell Foster, who represented the South Bronx for nearly a quarter century in the New York City Council, until 2002, also served as pastor of Christ Church in Morrisania.

Religious scholars

Eric Ulrich
Emil Cohen

Brooklyn state Sen. Simcha Felder’s father was a prominent rabbi, and Felder is an ordained rabbi too. But he does not lead a congregation, instead sticking with politics and a side job at an accounting firm. Queens City Councilman Eric Ulrich attended Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary, a Catholic school for young men considering the priesthood. But he took a different route upon graduation, getting elected to the City Council at age 24. H. Carl McCall, the former state comptroller and state senator, had a long, distinguished career in politics, but only after studying at Andover Newton Theological School and getting ordained a minister in the United Church of Christ. He never served as a pastor, but preached while serving in Albany. “I try to always figure out where the nexus is between religious activities and secular activities,” he told Religion News Service in 1997.

NEXT STORY: The rise and fall of John Flanagan

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.