Selected in 2009 as "Pastor of the Year" in Brooklyn, New York, by Church Women United and in 2005 and 2006 by Beliefnet.com as one of "The Most Influential Spiritual Black Leaders" in the United States, the Reverend Conrad B. Tillard is an important ecclesiastical voice growing in America. He has been a student activist, minister, and community activist for over 20 years.
Today he serves as the Senior Minister of Nazarene Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ (UCC) congregation in the Bedford Stuyvesant community in Brooklyn, New York.
One of the oldest African American congregations in the city of New York, Nazarene has a distinguished track record of service to the African American community nationally. The Reverend Jesse R. Moorland, a former minister and trustee of the church, donated his personal book collection to Howard University; the books helped to establish the world renowned Moorland-Spingarn Library at the University located in Washington, DC.
The Reverend Conrad Tillard was born September 15, 1964, in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a graduate of Francis L. Cardozo High School in Washington, DC, and earned a bachelor of arts from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, majoring in African American Studies. He has pursued graduate studies at both the Harvard Divinity School and Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Reverend Tillard earned the Master of Divinity degree in systematic theology and Christian social ethics at the Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, studying under the esteemed scholar Dr. James H. Cone, the father of Black Liberation Theology. Reverend Tillard is also a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, where he earned a Master of Theology in practical theology, with a concentration in congregational ministry.
Reverend Tillard is a Baptist and Congregationalist (UCC) minister, licensed and ordained at historic Abyssinian Baptist Church of the City of New York. He was trained and mentored in the Gospel ministry by the Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, Pastor of Abyssinian. He is affiliated with the United Missionary Baptist Association of New York, Empire Baptist Convention and the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., The American Baptist Churches USA and holds dual standing with the Metropolitan Association of the United Church of Christ New York Conference. Rev. Tillard is also a lifetime member of the NAACP, and active in the organizations Brooklyn branch.
Previously he served as the Project Director for New Yorkers for the Gulf Coast (NY4GC), an organization uniting leaders of the religious, business, and entertainment sectors together to continue to provide support to victims of Hurricane Katrina. The organization is Chaired by Dr. Calvin O. Butts III.
He is the former Interim Pastor of the 170-year-old Eliot Congregational Church of Roxbury, located in inner city Boston. Eliot Church is a vibrant United Church of Christ congregation, with expansive community service ministries.
Reverend Tillard started his career as a student activist, working as a National Student Coordinator in the historic 1984 presidential campaign of Reverend Jesse L. Jackson. In 1984 he joined the Nation of Islam and rose rapidly in that movement; he was appointed the National Youth Minister in 1989 and in 1991 he was installed as Presiding Minister of the organization's legendary Mosque #7 in Harlem where he served for seven years.
In 1998 he resigned from that movement and started down the road that would reunite him with the Body of Christ. He enrolled at the Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was a class at Harvard on the teachings of the profound Baptist theologian Howard Thurman that gave him new insight into Jesus Christ, the Christian faith, and the mission of universal brotherhood, reconciliation, and love. In 2001 he returned to the church of his youth and walked down the aisle and joined Abyssinian Baptist Church.
In 1998 he founded A Movement for CHANGE, a youth organization credited with creating the thrust of hip-hop political activism that culminated in the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America. He has been both a mediator of hip-hop's violent conflicts and spiritual mentor to troubled hip-hop personalities such as Sean "P-Diddy" Combs and Jamal "SHYNE" Barrow. He has been an outspoken critic of negativity in youth culture and the hip-hop industry.
Tillard has been featured nationally in such magazines and newspapers as Savoy, Vibe, Source, Esquire, XXL, Essence, Ebony, Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Los Angeles Times. Recently, he was featured in Essence Books' 50 of the Most Inspiring African-Americans, and in 1999, he was among leading African American men in another of Essence Books titled Essence in Celebration of Our Brothers.
He has hosted "New York Roundtable" and "Sunday Night Live," daily and weekly radio talk shows, respectively, in New York City, on the African American-owned Inner-City Broadcasting Corporation.
Reverend Tillard is a regular guest host on the station's GBE's "Express Yourself" and "Politics Plus" programs.
In 2001 he co-wrote and hosted a one-hour television program, Culture Shock, for WPIX Channel 11 in New York City. The program, addressing the issue of negative imagery in the media in youth programming, won the 2001 National Council on Family Relations First Place Media Award and Platinum Best; in 2002 the program won the Show Award and the Aurora Award.
Reverend Tillard is currently working on his autobiography that will detail his ministry and spiritual journey through the African American religious experience. The Prodigal Son Imperative: In My Father's House will be published in 2009.
The Reverend Conrad B. Tillard, the activist preacher, is committed to a life and ministry that can best be summed up in the phrase "unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian."