President Barack Obama appointed Suzan D. Johnson Cook as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, a position confirmed by the United States Senate. She is the principal advisor to both the President of the United States and Secretary of State for Religious Freedom globally. She is the first African American and the first female to hold this position. She is the 3rd Ambassador at Large, since it’s creation under the 1998 IRF Act.
Prior to joining the Department of State, Ambassador Johnson Cook served as the senior pastor and CEO of the Bronx Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in New York City from 1996-2010. She was also the founder and president of Wisdom Women Worldwide Center, a global center for female faith leaders and the owner of Charisma Speakers, a cross cultural communications firm and speakers bureau.
She has had three Presidential appointments, two appointments from Cabinet Secretaries and a United States Senate confirmation. In 1993, Johnson Cook was a White House Fellow on the Domestic Policy Council. In that role, she advised President Bill Clinton on a range of issues including homelessness, violence, and community empowerment. She also worked with the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development on faith based initiatives from 1994 until 1997. President Clinton appointed her in 1997 to serve on his National Initiative on Race as its only faith advisor, and this present appointment was made by President Obama in 2011.
Johnson Cook held the position of Chaplain to the New York City Police Department for twenty-one years, the only woman to serve in that role; she was on the front lines of 9/11. She was also a founder and board member of the Multi-Ethnic Center in New York City. For three decades she served as senior pastor to three New York City congregations: Mariners Temple Baptist Church from1983-1996, Bronx Christian fellowship 1996-2010 and Wall Street since 1996. She served as professor at New York Theological Seminary from 1988-1996 and an Associate Dean and Professor at Harvard Divinity School for 1990-1992.
Johnson Cook has traveled to five continents to promote religious freedom. She has led interfaith delegations to Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and throughout the Caribbean. She worked with World Vision in Ruschlikon, Switzerland in its efforts to combat global poverty, and travelled to Zimbabwe and South Africa to meet with Zulu faith leaders to promote interfaith dialogue and tolerance. As a young woman, Johnson Cook worked with Operation Crossroads Africa, where she participated in a cross-cultural exchange with student groups in Ghana and Nigeria. She also spent time living and studying in Valencia, Spain. Johnson Cook is the recipient of several awards, including the Woman of Conscience Award, the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, the Visionary Leader’s Award, the Judith Hollister Peace Award and has also authored ten books. She received her Bachelor of Science in Speech from Emerson College in Boston in 1976 and a Master of Arts from Columbia University Teachers College in New York City in 1978. She completed a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in NYC and a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, in 1983 and 1990, respectively. She was a Sam Proctor Fellow and a Harvard University President's Administrative Fellow, both in 1990 and 1991.
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