Our Candidate For a Pastor

“And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Jeremiah 3:15

The Abyssinian Baptist Church Pulpit Search Committee is very pleased to report that we are ready and prepared to present our recommendation for the Senior Pastor position, Rev. Kevin R. Johnson, Ed.D. The upcoming Candidate’s Weekend, scheduled for May 17-19, 2024, will allow the congregation, church leadership, and affiliates to meet and interact with Rev. Dr. Johnson, followed by a congregational vote starting shortly after. This journey has left us humbled, challenged, inspired, encouraged, and ultimately filled with excitement and gratitude for what God is doing in the life of God’s church.

After many months of prayerful engagement and a rigorous process of examination, the committee is confident in recommending and endorsing Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Johnson, as Senior Pastor of The Abyssinian Baptist Church in the City of New York. Rev. Johnson describes himself as a “Christian minister deeply rooted in the social-gospel movement to save souls for Christ and advance the Gospel through economic, spiritual development, community development, education, job training and empowerment.”

In the next few weeks, you will receive more information on Rev. Johnson’s credentials and experience. We look forward to you hearing Rev. Johnson share his vision for Abyssinian, his pastoral accomplishments, and even the challenging moments that God used to stretch and grow him.

Lastly, in all things remember to keep praying, keep working and keep the faith!


The Pulpit Search Committee
Dana J. Fleming, Chair
Tiffany N. Meriweather, Esq., Vice Chair
Susie L. Drayton, Secretary
Deacon I. Javette Hines, Esq., Chaplain

Meet the Committee


Dana J. Fleming


Dana J. Fleming is the Deputy Director of New Life of New York City, Inc., a nonprofit aiding New York City’s youth through diverse programs. A Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native, she attended Marymount College and Howard University. As an Abyssinian member for 22 years, she values the community’s nurturing spirit. Dana’s hobbies include cooking, reading mystery novels, traveling, and spending quality time with loved ones.

Tiffany N. Meriweather, Esq.

Vice Chair

Tiffany N. Meriweather, Esq. serves as the Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary for a publicly traded technology company, overseeing global legal and compliance. From Atlanta, Georgia, she graduated from Columbia Law School and Emory University. With 14 years at Abyssinian, she has led the Young Adult Ministry and contributed to the Strategic Planning Committee. Tiffany cherishes Abyssinian’s rich legacy and envisions its continued evolution to serve Harlem and beyond.

Susie L. Drayton


Retired from the New York City School Construction Authority, Susie L. Drayton once held the Assistant Director of Administrative Services position. From Harlem, New York, she graduated from Brooklyn College. At Abyssinian for 34 years, she finds fulfillment in various ministries, especially valuing the church’s familial vibe.

Deacon I. Javette Hines, Esq.


Deacon I. Javette Hines heads Supply Chain Development, Inclusion, and Sustainability at Citi. From LaGrange, Georgia, she attended Clark College/Clark Atlanta University and Wake Forest University School of Law. A 22-year Abyssinian member, she admires the church’s sense of family and wishes for its continuous evolution in serving teens and leadership.


Deacon Gerald Barbour

Originally from Front Royal, Virginia, Deacon Gerald Barbour, currently retired, dedicated his professional career to the County of Westchester’s Department of Social Services, where he served as Director of Employment Services for the City of Yonkers. An alumnus of Virginia State University, his journey with Abyssinian spans 26 years. During this time, he has rendered 18 years of service as a deacon, including 15 years of service as chair of the diaconate. He also served as president of the scholarship ministry for 9 years. He is an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and is active in his local chapter’s community service initiatives. Deacon Barbour hopes to see Abyssinian maintain its consistent dedication to community outreach.

Dr. Cynthia Barnes, MD

Dr. Cynthia Barnes is a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City. From Washington, D.C., she graduated from Howard University. An Abyssinian member for 30 years, she has passionately served at the Abyssinian Development Corporation. Dr. Barnes lauds the community’s dedication to social activism and hopes for its continued relevance.

Deacon Calvin O. Butts, IV

Calvin O. Butts, IV is a life-long member of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. He has served extensively in the music ministry of the church, having been a member of the Junior Church Choir, Chancel Choir, Inspirational Voices and the Luther Rucker Ensemble. He also served for many years with AbyTech. Prior to his service on the Pulpit Search Committee, Deacon Butts was appointed to the Strategic Planning Committee for the church and has served on the Board of Deacons since 2011. Outside of Abyssinian, Deacon Butts is a Creative Copywriter in the advertising industry, and currently works as an Associate Creative Director for Uniworld Group (UWG). He is also a member of the Board of Directors for Harlem Little League. Deacon Butts is married to Tiffany Butts, and they have two sons, Calvin O. Butts, V and Reed Harris Butts.

Sheila Boston Robinson, Esq.

Sheila S. Boston, Esq., a litigation partner at Arnold & Porter, previously presided over the New York City Bar Association. She attended Columbia Law School and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Originally from Maryland, Sheila has been with Abyssinian for 30 years, presently serving as the Church Clerk.

Deacon Karyn Davenport

Deacon Karyn Davenport is associated with The Fortune Society. A Douglass College alumna, she has contributed 34 years to Abyssinian, serving in diverse roles, from ushering to chairing the Diaconate Board. She wishes for Abyssinian to expand its community outreach and youth programs.

Peggy Ifil

Peggy J. Evans-Ifil is a retired educator and is the property manager of Evans Agard-Ifil & Co. Born and raised in Harlem, New York, she graduated from Lehman College and East Stroudsburg University. Peggy J. Evans-Ifil has been a lifetime member of Abyssinian for over 80 years. She is one of 10 children born to her parents, the Late Rev. Henry J. Evans, Sr. and Mary Magdelene Evans. For almost 100 years, the family has served Abyssinian faithfully in many capacities. Peggy’s most meaningful ministry involvement include: ABC Federal Credit Union, Cathedral Choir, visiting the sick, and supporting the youth and young adult programs and events. Abyssinian’s commitment to helping those in need, within the church walls and throughout the broad community at large, is a quality she loves most about this church and hopes it will continue to expand. Her personal interests include spending time with her family and friends and doing what she can to help build communities.

Deacon Kenneth Jeffers

Deacon Kenneth Jeffers is an Audio/Video Editor at CMI/NYLA – MEDIA. From Yonkers, New York, he graduated from Brooklyn College. His journey with Abyssinian spans 28 years, with his most cherished ministry work being in serving communion and visiting the sick. Deacon Jeffers appreciates Abyssinian’s welcoming spirit, where every individual is embraced as a Child of God. He aspires for Abyssinian to harness technology and streaming to expand its evangelism and outreach. Outside work and church, he enjoys playing golf and traveling internationally.

Trustee Stephen Ross Johnson

Trustee Stephen Ross Johnson works in luxury automotive sales for Lexus of Manhattan. A New York City native, he graduated from Morehouse College and Indiana University’s Graduate School of Business. Involved with Abyssinian for 26 years, he treasures the community’s unity and aims to support it through transitions.

Trustee Lillie May

Trustee Lillie May is affiliated with the US Department of Treasury. From Brooksville, Mississippi, she graduated from New York University. At Abyssinian for 21 years, she cherishes its prophetic endeavors and envisions its continued service as stated in Matthew 25:35-37.

Deacon Dr. Henry L. McCurtis

Deacon Dr. Henry L. McCurtis, a psychiatrist in private practice, hails from Paris, Texas, and graduated from Texas Southern University. At Abyssinian for 33 years, he is involved in various ministries and is passionate about the community’s commitment to social justice.

Deacon James McShay

Deacon James T. McShay hails from Lakeland, Florida, and is an alumnus of Baruch College and City College of New York. His extensive 76-year association with Abyssinian has witnessed him serving as an ordained deacon since 1959 and the Treasurer of the ABC Credit Union for over half a century. Having been influenced by the leadership of three pastors — Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Samuel D. Proctor, and Calvin O. Butts III — he has grown deeply fond of Abyssinian’s profound history and its inspiring music ministry. Deacon McShay envisions Abyssinian continuously building upon its legacy in New York City. Outside church, he cherishes moments with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, enjoys bowling, and is a sports TV enthusiast.

Elsie Mitchell

Elsie Mitchell, retired, is from New York City and attended Marymount Manhattan College. An Abyssinian member for over 25 years, she enjoys the Scholarship Ministry and values the church’s inclusivity.

Javon Phillips

Javon Phillips, an athlete agent at Excel Sports Management, is from Harlem, New York, and graduated from Morehouse College. At Abyssinian for 35 years, he celebrates the community’s supportiveness and envisions its legacy continuing with Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III’s inspiration.

Deacon Trustee Patricia L. Proctor

Patricia L. Proctor serves as both a deacon and a trustee of Abyssinian Baptist Church and was a founding board member and Treasurer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation.  Her career experience encompasses real estate and banking.  She is currently affiliated with Weichert Realtors in Morristown, New Jersey, and she previously held managerial positions at Wachovia/Wells Fargo Bank in Union, New Jersey and First Union National Bank in Linden, New Jersey.  She holds a BS in Organizational Management, with Honors, from Nyack College.

Deacon Herbert S. Proctor

On March 31, 2024, our church and committee experienced a heartbreaking loss when Deacon Herbert S. Proctor transitioned from labor to reward. Deacon Proctor had a lifelong commitment to social work, education, and the arts. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Fayetteville State University and a Masters’ Degree in Social Work from Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Social Work. From 1986 to 2012, he played an integral role as a School Social Worker for the Board of Education in Orange, New Jersey, influencing many young lives. In addition to his professional and academic pursuits, Herbert’s passion for music was evident through his longstanding membership with the North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club since 1984, where he contributed his vocal talents, leadership and camaraderie.

G. Edwin Robinson

G. Edwin Robinson, a performing artist and theater teacher at Boys and Girls High School, is from St. Albans, New York. A graduate of Howard University, Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts with a B.F.A. in Theatre Education, New York University, M.A. in Educational Theatre with additional graduate studies in theatre at The University College London, London, England and Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, Scotland. He has contributed 37 years to Abyssinian, valuing its longstanding global Christian mission.

Trustee Alexis Thomas

Trustee Alexis Thomas serves as the President and CEO of Preston Hollow Consultants. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, her educational journey led her through Morgan State University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University. A devoted member of Abyssinian for 44 years, Alexis has found significant purpose in her roles as the Chair of the Board of Trustees, a member of Diaconate, and in fundraising efforts. She cherishes the warmth exuded by Abyssinian’s members and looks forward to the completion of the Rev Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III Educational Center in the next phase of the church’s development. Beyond her professional and church-related duties, Alexis enjoys tennis, golf, gardening, and walking.

Demetria L. Thomas, Ed.D.

Demetria L. Thomas, Ed. D. is a teacher in the New York City Public Schools. Known as “Dee Dee,” she is from New York City and boasts a rich educational background. She is an Undergraduate alumna of North Carolina A & T State University (B.S. in Biology), Masters in Elementary Education from Mercy College, and her Doctorate in Education from Walden University. Born into Abyssinian, her family lineage at the church spans five generations. Throughout the years, she has been engaged in diverse ministries including, Inspirational Voices, New Life Ushers, Scholarship, Welcome & Hospitality and Chairman of the Women’s Ministry. She most treasures Abyssinian’s familial bonds.

Deacon Earnestine Wallace-Adams

Deacon Earnestine Wallace-Adams, retired CFO of The Abyssinian Baptist Church, is from Memphis, Tennessee. An alumna of Knox College and Columbia University, she has devoted 47 years to Abyssinian, serving in various capacities. She hopes for Abyssinian to uphold its legacy while innovating for the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

During the last several months we have received numerous questions about the search process. We have provided answers to the most frequently asked questions here. If you have additional questions, please contact the Committee at pulpitsearch@abyssinian.org.

What Steps have been taken since our last update?

The great news is that we have confirmed a candidate. He is being presented to the congregation following much vetting.

What is the process?

We have created a timeline which we have worked to follow as closely as we can, while acknowledging that we must be flexible. For the record, we have been incredibly open to discussion and scheduled several listening sessions early on to share information and answer questions. While information was shared in advance of the process agreed as part of the timeline, we are comfortable with the outcome and thus our recommendation.

When will Candidate information be available?

We are in the process of completing the candidate information packet for the congregation to review prior to the candidate’s weekend. Our candidate’s weekend is planned to include time for the congregation, officers, youth, and affiliates to spend time with the candidate, which will culminate in the candidate preaching that Sunday. The congregational vote will occur shortly thereafter.

Is there a Timeline?

Yes. We started the process of review with 47 candidates; narrowed it to less than 30; moved to 11 candidates; then 3; and finally, 1 candidate who will be presented to the congregation.

We are very comfortable with our recommendation as we’ve vetted and interviewed amazing candidates throughout the process. The final vote represented support by way of 2/3 of PSC members voting for the candidate. There is also a timeline of key dates including a candidate weekend, notification and voting that is planned.

What is the voting platform?

We have vetted three voting platforms, and we have been evaluating them throughout the process. Our decision process has included identifying the platform that will be best suited for our wide variety of membership circumstances. This entails identifying where our members are located and how we can best ensure we have secure processes in place that allows them the opportunity to vote, should they choose to do so.

What are the Voting Demographics?

We divided the congregation into the following group members: (those with a number); members over 65; sick and shut in; nursing home residents; visitors; members across the US; and members in foreign countries. Once we determined the groups, we were able to determine the needs and limitations of our members. Currently, we are leaning towards a hybrid approach of electronic voting, in person voting, and physical ballots delivered to those not able to be in person. This approach and grouping members in this way supports a vision for allowing all congregants to vote in a way best suited for available circumstances, but also consistent for the process.

What was the Candidate Vetting process?

We performed preliminary background checks on the final three candidates that included social media and questions curated by the committee and the firm engaged to conduct the background checks. Once a candidate was selected to be recommended for congregational vote, we with the permission of the candidate have now begun the more extensive background checks associated with employment verification, finances and other key areas appropriate for high-profile leadership positions. We were not allowed to make any in-depth background checks until we made a conditional offer and received written permission from the candidate.

Is it possible for an Abyssinian Pastor to lead two churches?

Abyssinian will have only one pastor and that pastor will only lead one church – the Abyssinian Baptist Church. It was made clear to the recommended candidate that if the congregation were to vote him in, that an absolute condition of his employment was that he would pastor only our church. He understands and agrees that Abyssinian deserves nothing less.

What happens if the congregation does not vote on the recommended candidate?

At the beginning of the process, we stated that there would be one candidate presented for the church to vote up or down.

If the candidate is voted down, pursuant to the bylaws we will present another candidate to the congregation.

The congregation voted to have a total of 27 PSC members. Currently there are no longer 27 for various reasons. Is the PSC still in compliance with the church bylaws? Is there a quorum?

Bylaws may establish a different number for a quorum, but in the absence of any established number in your governing rules, a quorum is a majority of your members. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, a quorum is the minimum number of voting members who must be present at a properly convened meeting in order to do business.

Abyssinian’s bylaws state 17 as the number of members for the Pulpit Search Committee. The congregation voted to allow for an exception to the current bylaws for the purpose of the existing Pastoral Search. Twenty-seven (27) is the exception for the purposes of the existing search, not the rule. The bylaws also do not require replacement appointments.

Additionally, as with all committees which is what the PSC is and relative to voting strength, it is based on the existing number of current members and a quorum is at least half the voting members of the committee.

Did former ministerial staff receive priority?

No. However, several “sons and daughters” of the church applied and are under consideration.

Must the congregation agree with the committee’s choice?

No, the Pastor is called by the majority vote of the Members in Good Standing who are eligible to vote. If the congregation rejects the recommendation of the Committee, the Committee will nominate another candidate until one is elected by the Church Members in Good Standing.

Will current Church staff remain post the selection of a new Pastor?

We deeply appreciate the dedication and service of the ministerial and administrative staff who have served Abyssinian for the last several years, particularly during this difficult time of transition. The new Pastor will determine staffing decisions at the appropriate time, and any continued employment will need to be mutually agreed by the Pastor and the relevant staff. Article VII, Section 10 of the By-Laws stipulate that the Pastor has the power to hire and discharge all of the Pastor’s Associate and Assistant Ministers, and other employed religious and professional staff including the Minister of Music, the Organist and Church staff.