We are very pleased to announce that The Rev. J.C. Austin has been called to serve as the new pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem PC(USA). The past several months have been a journey of spiritual discernment and listening closely to the will of God for this next stage of our congregation’s chapter in mission and ministry. We are grateful to the Lehigh Presbytery for their oversight and confirmation in this process.
For nearly twenty years, J.C. Austin has served the Presbyterian Church (USA) as a pastor, an educator, and a leader at every level of the denomination. He is married to Tammy Haston Austin, and is a devoted father to Liam Austin, their 12 year-old son. J.C.’s ministry will begin officially on November 27, though he will be in and out of the office that week as he transitions to Bethlehem. His first Sunday in the pulpit will be December 3, the first Sunday of Advent.
J. C. Austin is a lifelong Presbyterian. He was ordained to serve as Associate Pastor for Evangelism and Stewardship at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, where he helped lead a historic but declining congregation into its first experience of significant growth in vitality, resources, and size in several decades. Following that experience, he was a vice president at Auburn Theological Seminary, also in New York City. There, he built a national reputation as an expert on innovative congregational leadership for the 21st century, conceiving and establishing a range of new initiatives to build personal resilience, entrepreneurial spirit, and practical wisdom in pastoral leaders.
For the last five years, he has been a Parish Associate at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, where he has preached, taught, and provided pastoral coverage on a regular basis. In the Presbytery of New York City, he has chaired the Presbytery Cabinet, task forces on the presbytery’s mission statement and strategic plan, and the Grants Committee of the 9/11 Disaster Relief Commission following the September 11 attacks on New York City. At the General Assembly level, he was appointed to the General Assembly’s Special Committee on the Belhar Confession.
J.C. received his Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1998, with concentrations in New Testament Studies and Homiletics. At graduation, he won several prizes including the prestigious Graduate Study Fellowship in Parish Pulpit Ministry, which allowed him to spend a year as a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cape Town, studying the theological dimensions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-apartheid South Africa. He is working to complete his Ph.D. with the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.
J.C. and his family share a passion for adventurous international travel (lacking only Antarctica among all the continents!). J.C.’s personal passion is music; he appreciates everything from opera to hip-hop and describes himself as an “enthusiastic if not very accomplished guitarist.” Finally, “J.C.” stands for “John Charles,” and he will buy anybody lunch who can come up with a joke about being a preacher named J.C. that he hasn’t already heard!
J. C. Austin will preach November 26. Immediately following the service, there will be a brief congregational meeting and a vote to approve the terms of call for J. C. as our designated pastor. Everyone is encouraged to attend this historic event.