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Our Senior Pastor
DR. WYATT TEE WALKER
Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker is Pastor Emeritus of the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in New York’s Harlem community. Until recently, Dr. Walker served 37 years as Senior Pastor and CEO of Canaan. He is the chief reason Canaan remains a paradigm of what urban ministry can be. Dr. Walker is known in Harlem, nationally and internationally as pastor, theologian, human rights activist and cultural historian. Dr. Walker served as Chief of Staff to the late Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. and historians credit Dr. Walker as Dr. King’s chief strategist. Since 1979, he has distinguished himself as the most prolific author and essayist in the African American pulpit in the last half-century. He is a double graduate of Virginia Union University, Richmond, Virginia (B.S., 1950; M.Div., 1953) and holds an earned doctorate from Rochester Theological Center, Rochester, New York. His graduate studies have taken him to the University of Ife in Nigeria, the University of Ghana at Legon and the Haitian-American Institute in Port-au-Prince. He is an exhibiting artist (photojournalist) as well as a composer of sacred music. Jesse Jackson has called him Harlem’s Renaissance Man because of his multiple gifts and varied careers.
Over the last two decades, Dr. Walker has emerged as the nation’s foremost authority on the music of the African American religious experience by the sheer dint of his productivity and dogged research Following the publication of his landmark work, Somebody’s Calling My Name, which is considered a classic in many quarters, five additional works in the field of ethnomusicology have come from his pen. The three-volume Spirits That Dwell in Deep Woods has been hailed as pioneer work which he continues to pursue. No one has written as much or as carefully on the meter music of the African American religious tradition. Several recent works accent Dr. Walker’s prolific writing prowess: The Harvard Paper, which details the economic profile of the African-American Church; The Soweto Diary, a personal eyewitness account of the free election in South Africa; Race, Justice and Culture, with a forward by Dan Rather, former CBS News journalist and anchor; and Millennium End Papers, the first release of 2000. In all, Dr. Walker has produced 27 works since 1979.
Dr. Walker has preached on every continent of the world with the exception of Australia. His global vision has carried him to 100 countries and he is regarded internationally as a human rights activist. In 1994, Nelson Mandela’s first stop as President of South Africa was the worship service at Canaan. The following week, Dr. Walker was the first African-American to meet Yasir Arafat since the de-militarization of the Gaza Strip and Jericho, both occurrences underscoring his involvement as an anti-apartheid activist for Palestinian statehood. He is now President Emeritus of Africa Action and past Chairman of the Board of Rev. Alfred Sharpton’s National Action Network. In 1998, The All-Africa Council of Churches hosted Dr. Walker as the keynote preacher for the last quadrennial meeting of the 20th century, in Addis Abba, Ethiopia. In 2000, The National Baptists of Southern Africa invited this Harlem preacher to be the celebrant for the Centennial Celebration in Johannesburg.
In constant demand as a religious thinker and practitioner, Dr. Walker served three tenures on the faculty of New York Theological Seminary, two tenures at Princeton Seminar, two tenures at United Theological Seminary, Dayton Ohio, including serving as Interim Dean of Doctoral Studies, and a single tenure at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
Several institutions have conferred an honorary degree on Dr. Walker. They are Virginia Union University, Gettysburg College, Florida Memorial University, Bethune-Cookman College and Virginia State University.
As a Harlem pastor, Dr. Walker was the largest single developer of affordable housing in New York City and has been a key player in the physical renaissance of Harlem that proceeds apace. Most notably, under his leadership Canaan Baptist Church sponsored seven housing properties, which included three senior housing properties and the Canaan Senior Services Center, the oldest senior services center in Harlem. Dr. Walker also served as Chairman of the Consortium for Central Harlem Development which was responsible for $100 million in housing.
Ebony Magazine named Dr. Walker one of the greatest African-American preachers.