Chaplain Butts Closes Season with Sermon ‘In the Image of God’

“Education and faith are the Tigris and the Euphrates of our liberation: twin rivers at the source of our redemption.”

That is the motto on the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III’s page on the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City’s website.

Butts is returning to Chautauqua after a four-year absence to preach at the final 10:45 a.m. Sunday morning worship service in the Amphitheater. His sermon is titled “In the Image of God”; the Scripture reading is Genesis 1:24-28; 2:7.

“Education and faith are the hallmarks of the ministry, infusing his life, his work and his teachings,” his Abyssinian biography reads. As pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church and President of the SUNY College at Old Westbury, Butts’ “commitment to enhancing the kingdom of God on Earth is evidenced in a loyal attention to the daily activities and services of the congregation, as well as the pervasive impact of the church on community development initiatives including homelessness, senior citizen and youth empowerment, cultural awareness and ecumenical outreach.”

Butts is currently chairman of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, a community-based not-for-profit organization he helped found in 1989. The corporation has completed more than $600 million in housing and commercial development in Harlem.

At Abyssinian, Butts has spearheaded numerous social justice initiatives, including boycotts against institutions with racist, discriminatory policies.

“Butts has spoken out against racial profiling and police brutality, built coalitions to foster economic development and job growth and mobilized support for the plight of Christian minorities being persecuted abroad,” according to his Abyssinian bio.

Butts was also instrumental in establishing a church-administered legal defense fund for members of his congregation and the surrounding community to cover various legal expenses.

Butts also worked toward establishing the Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change — a public, state-of-the-art, intermediate and high school in Harlem — and the Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School, which opened in September 2005.

He is a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, as well as a board member of New Visions for Public Schools. He served as chairman of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS and served as president of Africare, as well as president of the Council of Churches of the City of New York. He served as vice-chair of the board of directors of United Way of New York City, and chairman of the board of the Harlem YMCA.

Butts is a recipient of many honors and awards, including UNCF’s Shirley Chisholm Community Service Award, Man of the Year Award from Morehouse College Alumni Association, induction into the Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers and the William M. Moss Distinguished Brotherhood Award among others. He has been recognized as a Living Treasure by the New York City Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Butts earned a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Morehouse College in Atlanta, a Master of Divinity in church history from Union Theological Seminary and a Doctorate of Ministry in church and public policy from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.


The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.