Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, Who Led The Abyssinian Baptist Church In New York City For Many Years, Died At The Age Of 73

Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, Who Led The Abyssinian Baptist Church In New York City For Many Years, Died At The Age Of 73
Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, Who Led The Abyssinian Baptist Church In New York City For Many Years, Died At The Age Of 73

Of the age of 73, the Reverend Calvin O. Butts III, who served as Pastor at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City for many years, passed away.

The Rev. Calvin O. Butts III was a well-known African American pastor at the venerable Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City and was well-known for his social engagement. He passed away from cancer. He was 73.

On Friday, Abyssinian Baptist Church posted a notice of Butts’ departure on Facebook, stating that the longtime pastor had passed away peacefully early this morning.

We announce the demise of Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, our cherished pastor, “who peacefully passed in the early hours of October 28, 2022,” the church said.

The Butts Family and the whole membership of the Abyssinian Baptist Church ask for your prayers as we grieve.

Cornel West, a well-known African American professor and political activist who leans to the left, wrote on Twitter on Friday that Butts was “my dear friend of over 40 years.”

West tweeted, “I am extremely grieved by the passing of my very close brother, the great Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts. ” He has my unwavering love and respect forever! Godspeed to his family and to his devoted wife, Patricia! “

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In a statement after the announcement, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo referred to Butts as “a man of God, an academic committed to guiding the next generation of New York leaders, a humanitarian dedicated to improving the lives of his fellow men, as well as a friend.”

Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, Who Led The Abyssinian Baptist Church In New York City For Many Years, Died At The Age Of 73

“I will always respect his advice and friendship to my father and me over the previous 40 years and truly regret his departure,” Cuomo said.During this sad time, my thoughts are with Mrs. Butts, his family, his church, and the many New Yorkers who are grieving for him.

Butts, the son of a butcher and a welfare department supervisor, was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1949. In 1972, he earned his degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta. He then went to Union Theological Seminary in New York City and Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

Butts had a number of ministry roles there before becoming the pastor of Abyssinian Baptist in 1989 and remaining in that capacity until his passing. He earned a reputation for advocating social change in New York City. This includes his efforts to “rebuild Harlem, brick by brick, block by block” in the 1980s when he established the Abyssinian Development Corp., according to NBC News affiliate WNBC on Friday.

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The preacher gained notoriety in the early 1990s for calling attention to what he saw to be the negative aspects of rap music, especially how women were portrayed in the songs. WNBC says that in 1993, hundreds of rap CDs were crushed by a steamroller outside the cathedral.

The famous Harlem preacher also oversaw the growth and accreditation of the State University of New York College of Old Westbury on Long Island from 1999 to 2020.

Other posts he held were as chairman of the Harlem YMCA, president of Africare NYC, and a member of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. He also served as president of the Council of Churches of the City of New York.

For his efforts, he won a number of honors, including the Shirley Chisholm Community Service Award from the United Negro College Fund, the Medal for Distinguished Service from Teachers College at Columbia University, and Man of the Year from the Morehouse College Alumni Association.

He was listed as one of the “most important black spiritual leaders” in the United States at the time by the well-known religious website Beliefnet in 2007.

Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, Who Led The Abyssinian Baptist Church In New York City For Many Years, Died At The Age Of 73

His political activities and affiliations sometimes sparked debate. In the 1980s, for example, many New York Philharmonic musicians skipped a show at his church because he wouldn’t distance himself from the anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan.

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Butts said that although he and Farrakhan disagreed on several points about Judaism, they did agree on other social and economic concerns.

Butts remarked at the time, as reported by the New York Times, “All I’m saying to the Jewish community is, don’t dictate to me.” “I recognize your rage. I’m not naive. I do not despise Jews. In reality, I admire what the Jews have accomplished. But please don’t turn me into a male and direct me.

Butts stirred up trouble early in 2020 when he publicly backed then-candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the Democratic presidential primary season.

Butts had met with Bloomberg and about 20 black pastors at the time. During the meeting, Bloomberg apologized for his past support of the controversial stop-and-frisk program.

Butts said during the meeting, “We accept your apologies at a certain level, but we want to let you know that we’ll be looking for more tangible manifestations of your remorse in terms of the African American community.”

Patricia Reed Butts, his wife, three children, and six grandchildren survive Butts. 

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