Stewarding the Future: Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson Announces Transition from her Role as President of Auburn Seminary, located in New York City

After over a decade of leadership as President of Auburn Seminary, Katharine Henderson today announced her plan to transition from her role, with a successor to be named by the Board by the end of 2021.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve Auburn and our partners in multifaith, multiracial justice communities, and I am excited to open that opportunity to Auburn’s next leader at this critical time in our nation and our world,” Rev. Dr. Henderson said.

During her tenure, she guided Auburn, a 202-year-old institution founded by Presbyterians in upstate New York, to become a vibrant and nationally-recognized multifaith center for leadership and research. Auburn continues in covenant relationship with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Auburn equips leaders in congregations, seminaries and social movements to build communities, bridge divides, pursue justice and heal the world.

“Katharine is a bold innovator and risk-taker who has helped reimagine what moral courage looks like: at the intersections of faith and public life, institutions and movements. She is a pragmatic visionary with a gracious, hopeful heart who has read the signs of the times and led us to new, impactful places under the banner of ‘trouble the water; heal the world,’” said Mary Byron, chair of the Auburn Board. “Auburn is blessed with a strong board and committed staff who will carry that vision and work into the future.”

“It has been the calling and privilege of my life to serve Auburn as its president,” Henderson stated. “I believe in the leaderful possibilities of this moment, and passing the baton to Auburn’s next president is something that excites and makes me hopeful. I wholeheartedly trust the Board to find the right leader for the future and am confident that the new president will build on the strength of what we, together, have built on the foundation we inherited.”

Over the past decade, Auburn helped to name and call forth the multifaith movement for justice, a network of progressive faith-rooted justice leaders and communities committed to building a future of equity and dignity for all. Katharine oversaw the building of relationship-based programs such as the Auburn Senior Fellows, a multifaith cohort of visionary national justice leaders; Auburn Media, which trains and amplifies progressive faith leaders’ moral voices; and Being In Relationship, which bridges differences and deepens inclusion in communities of faith. During her tenure, the focus of Auburn’s Applied Research expanded to address the future of theological education, build the capacity of multifaith leadership, and identify civic practices needed to weave together our polarized society across the U.S. Katharine was also instrumental in founding Face to Face/Faith to Faith, a multifaith program for teenage leaders from global conflict and post-conflict regions, and she inspired the creation of women’s leadership programming at Auburn. One focus is expressed today through the Sojourner Truth Leadership Circle, a signature Auburn initiative dedicated to supporting the lives and leadership of Black women in the US and South Africa who work at the intersection of faith/spirituality, community-building, and social justice.

Early in her tenure, Katharine launched the Lives of Commitment annual event to honor women of moral courage and celebrate changemakers in the public square. Lives of Commitment will celebrate its 25th anniversary in the spring of 2021.

Strong partnerships and authentic collaborations have been essential to all of Auburn’s work.

With Katharine’s leadership, Auburn has completed several successful programmatic and capital fundraising campaigns, including a state-of-the-art space renovation: The Janet Prindle Center for Prophetic Leadership, a convening space for multifaith movements; the Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein Center for Multifaith Education;  and additional spaces honoring Macky Alston, Lisa Anderson Healing Center, the Rev. Dr. Forrest Church and the Hostetter-Habib Family.

Former Board member, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Senior Rabbi of Central Synagogue offered: “Katharine elevated Auburn’s national stature and visibility during her presidency and made Auburn a central address for multifaith leaders to convene and act on matters of justice. I was fortunate to join the board soon after she became President and watched how she advanced her bold and courageous vision with humility and humor. Katharine embodies what powerful, faithful, collaborative leadership looks like.”

The Auburn Board has appointed a committee to conduct the national search for Auburn’s next president and will work with a search firm to build a pool of diverse candidates. Katharine, in her continued role as President, will help facilitate a seamless transition.

“Selfless love and stewardship have been hallmarks of Katharine’s leadership throughout her tenure at Auburn. In honor of that fact, the Board is establishing the Katharine Rhodes Henderson Innovation Fund to mark this moment and to provide support for future programmatic innovations,” said the Rev. Dr. Derrick McQueen, Vice Chair of the Board and Pastor of St. James Presbyterian Church in Harlem.

“I will remain committed to Auburn and to the broader movements to build a multifaith, multiracial democracy wherein everyone belongs; the creation of the Innovation Fund in my name is as humbling to me as it will be vital to my successor,” Henderson shared. “This vision has been part of my DNA since childhood, and through the Fund, the Board will make sure that it remains a part of Auburn’s future.”

You can learn more about the Katharine Rhodes Henderson Innovation Fund by contacting Blamo Jaurey-Briggs, Director of Strategic Partnerships, [email protected] or the Rev. Stan Sloan, Auburn Senior Strategist, s[email protected].

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