Reverend Dr. Gary V. Simpson
The year 1984 was a momentous year for the Rev. Dr. Gary V. Simpson. That was the year he graduated from Denison University with an achievement earned by only two African-American students before him – induction into the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. It was also the year he left his native Columbus, Ohio to enroll at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York to study with Dr. James H. Cone, the “father” of Black Liberation theology. Dr. Cone’s writings on black theology gave Pastor Simpson the framework to pursue his vocation with an understanding of his call to pastor as a call to the work of liberation for God’s people and creation.
While at Union, he was greatly influenced by the thoughts and lives of Dr. James Forbes, Dr. Cornel West and the late Dr. James Melvin Washington. It was Dr. Washington who introduced the young Reverend Simpson to Dr. Gardner C. Taylor and Concord Church. Pastor Simpson began serving as Student Minister under the leadership of the late Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor.
Pastor Simpson has always believed that one’s first ministry is to one’s family. He and the Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson met at a conference on the ministry at Colgate Rochester Divinity School in 1983, and then again at Union Theological Seminary in the fall of 1985. They were “friends who fell in love” and were married at Concord Church in 1988. Their marriage and ministry has been shaped by their faith and friendship. They are parents to three children, Candace, David and Jordan.
Dr. Simpson had a brief and meaningful pastorate at the Calvary Baptist Church (Morristown, NJ) from November 1989 to September 1990. His final act as pastor there was to preside at the meeting where the congregation called his successor, who also celebrated his 25th Pastoral Anniversary there in November 2015.
Pastor Simpson is a Disciple and Friend of Jesus Christ. He is a disciple first, often reminding the congregation of Paul’s words to “follow me as I follow Christ…” (I Corinthians 11:1). He is serious about his own devotional life, which has birthed beautiful hymns and songs that have blessed the Concord congregation like “Our God is a Healer,” “More Than a Watchman,” and “Lord, Make Us One.” And, as an unabashed friend of Jesus Christ, the metaphor for his relationships and ministry has been friendship.
He has a special heart-connection for young people who are discovering their vocation, and he takes great joy in encouraging them to be fearless as they follow the voice of God toward their own potential. This is the legacy of his home church, the Southfield Missionary Baptist Church, which nurtured and stirred up the gifts of young people in all areas. His father, the late Reverend Rufus N. Simpson, once prayed that God would send “soldiers” for ministry. His father’s prayers were answered when a new generation of young people, including Pastor Simpson (who preached his first sermon at the age of fifteen), answered the call to preach, sing, play the sacred songs, provide congregational leadership, and give back to the community. Pastor Simpson was ordained by the Eastern Union Missionary Baptist Association at the age of twenty.
Having prepared seven women and four men at Concord Church to be ordained and set apart for the Gospel Ministry in the last twenty-five years, his tenure as Senior Pastor of Concord Church has been marked by the conviction that Concord will be a place that nurtures vocation, and a place where pastors discerning a call find the warm embrace of God’s care and love.
Pastor Simpson earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary. He is a firm believer in formal theological education and prioritizes the role of the local congregation in shaping pastors. For many years, he served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Fund for Theological Education (now the Forum for Theological Education), a leadership incubator whose mission is to cultivate diverse young adults to be faithful, wise and courageous leaders for the church and academy. Passionate about his own call to mentor and about Concord Church becoming a Teaching Congregation, he created an intentional partnership with the Lilly Endowment, Inc. to bring the Transition into Ministry program to Concord Church. Now in its 14th year at Concord Church, Pastor Simpson and the congregation together have mentored, trained and supported thirteen seminary graduates to make their transition into ministry. The graduates of this full-time residency program are now serving God and people throughout the country in Baptist and United Methodist churches, and they are leading campus ministries.
Pastor Simpson expanded Concord’s Transition into Ministry/Pastoral Residency Program in 2012 to bring three local African American Baptist congregations (St. Paul Community Baptist Church, Emmanuel Baptist Church and Mt. Aery Baptist Church) into the program with Concord. He and the Senior Pastors/Mentors of these congregations have joined together to form the Brooklyn/Bridgeport Pastoral Residency Collaborative for the purpose of mentoring the next generation of pastors for the church. The goal of the collaborative is to graduate twelve new pastors over the course of the five-year period.
A beloved educator and author, Pastor Simpson’s vocation has been wonderfully expressed as a Teaching Pastor. In addition to leading Concord’s Community Bible Study where people of all walks of life can find common ground to discover the scriptures together, he has achieved tenure as Associate Professor of Homiletics at Drew Theological Seminary (Madison, NJ). He was particularly honored that in addition to that responsibility, during the 2015-2016 academic year, he returned to Union Theological Seminary for one year as Visiting Professor of Preaching, Worship and the Arts.
He has taught at Yale Divinity School, New York Theological Seminary, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and United Theological Seminary; and lectured at Harvard Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary and Candler School of Theology. He has served as advisor to numerous Doctor of Ministry students throughout the country. As an influencer of preachers, pastors and theologians, Andover Newton Seminary has featured his sermons as part of the “Future of Great Preaching” project. He is a sought after writer and thinker on the challenges of the church, theological education and higher education. He has contributed articles to numerous publications including the New Interpreter’s Handbook on Preaching; Feasting on the Word Commentary: Year B; Feasting on the Word Commentary: The Gospel of John; and, the African American Lectionary.
He served as Chair of the Goals Commission for the Progressive National Baptist Convention from 1996 – 1998, leading the creation of their first ever strategic plan. He currently serves as the Chair of the Ordination Council of American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York and is a Board member of Denison University and the National Grid Foundation.
“Creating a community of friends, witnessing for Christ,” has been Pastor Simpson’s guiding vision for Concord Church.
“In a fallen world where war and hate defines the experience of millions of people the world over, where economies feed on “the least of these,” and where people crave real intimacy and authentic engagement with each other and the gospel of Jesus Christ, the most radical and revolutionary thing we can do is to stand together as a defiant community of friends.” (Gary V. Simpson, “A Defiant Community of Friends” in Faith and Leadership)