The Rev. J.C. Austin, Pastor and Head of Staff, served the Presbyterian Church (USA) as pastor, educator, and leader at every level of the denomination for nearly twenty years before receiving his call to First Pres.
A lifelong Presbyterian, J.C. 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 where 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 five years before coming to Bethlehem, he served as a Parish Associate at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, where he preached, taught, and provided pastoral coverage on a regular basis. In the Presbytery of New York City, he 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. At the General Assembly level, he was appointed to the 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 was awarded 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.