Jeffrey Haggray ’88 M.Div.

2023Distinction in Congregational Ministry

Jeffrey Haggray personifies a healing vision for church life in an era of political and racial upheaval. Where others have despaired or wandered away from denominational witness, he has used a prophet’s voice to give leadership and imagination to congregations. He has been the pastor of several American Baptist churches. He has served various denominational and ecumenical entities. This includes working for environmental justice with the Baptist World Alliance and racial justice with the National Council of Churches.

These skills require micro-level attention and macro-level creativity. In his work he hase fielded challenges ranging from church transformation and chaplaincy … to issues of refugee resettlement, disaster response, religious liberty, and restorative justice—in other words, the great array of things that people of faith are called to do in the world.

Currently he is executive director of the American Baptist Churches Home Mission Society. In that role he is also CEO of Judson Press and denominational director of Public Witness and Advocacy.

Across these many arenas, he has preached a message of gospel hope and fearless vocation. As he has put it, to pursue humanitarian purposes is to be in the very presence of God. He points to the life of civil rights hero John Lewis as an exemplar—a person of faith who finds one’s mission in life by hearing the summons, interrogating one’s own hidden fears and hesitations, and finding the freedom to act.

His faith in the power of congregational life flows into his spiritual politics, his ideas of beloved community and responsible citizenship. More than a decade ago, in Reflections journal, he made a plea to America’s politicians to respect the nation’s deepest wounds and dreams, and act upon them. There he said

We need to replace fear-mongering with a renewed commitment to the importance of diverse people from all walks of life co-existing in a spirit of peace, community, and faith in God and one another.  I challenge us all to learn anew the importance of caring for one another as human beings who are made in God’s image …. We have yet to live up to the challenge God places before us.”

That was in Fall 2012—his prophetic words still wait to be heeded.

At the heart of YDS is the commitment to train people for the lay and ordained ministries of the church. The award for Distinction in Congregational Ministry annually goes to an individual who has shown exceptional pastoral competence in the work of the mission of local congregations. This year we are pleased to honor the Rev. Jeffrey Haggray.