Alphonso R. Bernard, Sr. (born August 10, 1953) is the pastor of the Christian Cultural Center Megachurch in Brooklyn, New York. In November 1979, A. R. Bernard, Sr. left a 10-year career with a major New York banking institution and together with his wife, Karen, went into full-time ministry. What started as a small storefront church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn has blossomed into a 37,000+ member church that sits on an eleven and a half acre campus in Brooklyn, New York. He is founder and CEO of the Christian Cultural Center.
He has served as the President of the Council of Churches of the City of New York representing 1.5 million Protestants, Anglicans and Orthodox Christians. Rev. Bernard recently founded the Christian Community Relations Council (CCRC) which is a NY based not-for-profit that will serve as a central resource and coordinating body for congregations and community organizations. He is currently on the Board of Directors for the Commission of Religious Leaders (CORL).
Rev. Bernard sat on the NYC Economic Development Corporation Board for current Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; NYC School Chancellor’s Advisory Cabinet and served on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2001 Transition Team and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2014 Transition Team.
Recently, Rev. Bernard welcomed President Reuven Rivlin of the State of Israel to Christian Cultural Center where New York Congressional members and elected officials greeted him on his first visit to the United States.
Founder of the Cultural Arts Academy Charter School established in February 2010. A comprehensive educational alternative designed to meet the needs of children for the 21st century; Bernard and his wife also founded the Brooklyn Preparatory School, specializing in early childhood education in 1993.
Recognized as a New Influential – 25 Leaders Reshaping New York (Crain’s New York Business, September 2008); Most Influential NY Clergyman (NY Daily News, February 2008); Most Influential African American New Yorker (NY Post, February 2008); New York’s Most Influential (NY Magazine, 2006); Bernard was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Consulate General of Israel in NY in conjunction with the Jewish Community Relations Council and Jewish National Fund. He has been personally cited in the Congressional Records.
Rev. Bernard has a Master of Urban Studies and a Master of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary. He has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Wagner College and an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Nyack College/Alliance Theological Seminary.
Bernard married his wife Karen in 1972. They have 7 sons and several grandchildren together. His eldest son, Alphonso R. Bernard, Jr., died on February 4, 2015 at the age of 39.
Bernard was born in Panama, the son of a black Panamanian mother and a father who was a Castilian Spaniard. His father disowned him and in 1957, he and his mother moved to the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. As part of the 1960s desegregation movement in the public school system, he was bused to school in Ridgewood, Queens and then attended Grover Cleveland High School. Bernard worked after school in the garment district pushing racks for $2.00 per hour to assist his mother in their single parent household. He landed a clerk position with Bankers Trust Company during his senior year of high school. Bernard earned a number of promotions leading to a position as Operations Specialist in the Consumer Lending Division.
Prior to becoming a Born Again Christian in January 1975, Bernard was a part of the Muslim American movement. In 1978 he and his wife, Karen started a Bible Study in the kitchen of their Brooklyn railroad apartment. Bernard left his 10-year banking career in 1979 to go into ministry full-time. As the bible study group grew, so did the need for a facility. The Bernards took their savings and rented a small storefront in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. Later that year Household of Faith Ministries was incorporated. In 1988, Household of Faith purchased and renovated an abandoned Brooklyn supermarket into a 1000-seat sanctuary, complete with administrative offices and a bookstore. Household of Faith was renamed Christian Life Center and formally moved into its property in June 1989 with a membership of 625.
As Christian Life Center began experiencing exponential growth - four Sunday services, lines forming at 4:00am, and overflow rooms filled to capacity, the ministry was quickly outgrowing its home on Linden Boulevard. The need for a larger facility was evident and in 1995 a vacant lot adjacent to Starrett City was purchased and construction followed immediately. On December 31, 2000, under the leadership of Bernard, Christian Cultural Center took its new name and moved into its new home. The 6.5-acre (26,000 m2) sanctuary and conference center also includes a chapel, bookstore, television production facilities and state of the art youth center. Christian Cultural Center, one of the largest independent churches in the United States, exemplifies a new paradigm in the worship experience. Bernard remains a highly sought after speaker, teacher and community leader. He has traveled extensively throughout the United States and internationally addressing religious organizations, businessmen and political dignitaries. Future expansion and development is anticipated on a 4.5-acre (18,000 m2) of land adjacent to the current CCC campus.
Outreach programs under his leadership include a food pantry serving the community, a Prison Ministry, and various city organizations including the New York Police Department's orientation.
Cornerstone Book & Gift, which began as a single table operation in the storefront, is now a half a million dollar per year business, serving church members and ministries both locally and internationally. It is a provider of bibles, books, recordings, videos and gifts and is among the larger Christian Bookstores in New York.
In 1990 while the ministry continued to grow, Bernard was asked to serve on the Board of Directors for the Christian Men’s Network (CMN) to help restructure the organization. During his six years on the board, CMN grew to an organization with 74 international offices and with a presence in approximately 150 nations. In addition to serving as Treasurer for the board, Bernard was one of their most requested speakers. With the passing of Dr. Edwin Louis Cole in 2002 he became the President of CMN. Under his leadership, CMN has been reborn as ICB, International Christian Brotherhood.
Bernard is also the founder of Brooklyn Preparatory School in New York City and Cultural Arts Academy Charter School. Formed in 1993, BPS is a premiere early education institution dedicated to serving young children, ages 3–6. Their June 1999 first grade graduates ranked 91st in the national percentile in reading and 96th in the national percentile in mathematics.A. R. Bernard Sr. is the President of the Council of Churches of the City of New York representing 1.5 million Protestants, Anglicans and Orthodox Christians.
Member, Board of Directors for the NYC Economic Development Corporation
Member, Chancellor's cabinet of the New York City Department of Education
Commission of Religious Leaders: CORL – a think tank composed of the head of the New York Board of Rabbis, head of the New York Archdiocese of the Catholic Church, and the President of the Council of Churches of the City of New York
Religious Advisory Council of the New York Police Department under Commissioner Raymond Kelly
Served as member of the Evangelical Executive Advisory Board under President Donald J. Trump (resigned August 18, 2017)
Served as Member of the NYC Police Department Advisory Board of Courtesy Professionalism and Respect under Commissioner Howard Safir
Served as a member of the Association of Chaplains of New York State of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Police
Chairperson for the Billy Graham Final Crusade
In 2008 Bernard led a successful bid to purchase one of the nation's largest Mitchell Lama Housing Developments "Starrett City, Brooklyn, NY".
A. R. Bernard has degrees in the following:M.A., Divinity, Alliance Theological Seminary
B.A./M.A., Urban Studies, Alliance Theological Seminary
Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Wagner College
Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Nyack College/Alliance Theological Seminary
Four Things Women Want from a Man
Bernard has been featured in New York Magazine, The New York Times, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, Black Enterprise, Essence, Class Magazine, Charisma and a host of other newspapers and magazines.
He has also appeared on Fox News Channel, NBC's Today, MSNBC, CBS News, BET, The 700 Club, TBN's Praise the Lord, Tony Brown's Journal, The Wendy Williams Show as well as various national and local news programs.The Ebony Power 100, Ebony Magazine, December 2010/January 2011
Crain’s Business Publication, 2008 25 Leaders Reshaping New York
New York Daily News, 2008, 2007, Most Influential Clergy
New York Post 2008 Most Influential African-American New Yorker
New York Daily News, 2008, 2007, Top 30 Most Influential Black New Yorker
New York Post 2007, Top 30 Most Influential Black New Yorker
Consulate General of Israel in New York 2007, Lifetime Achievement Award
New York Magazine, 2006 One of the City’s Most Influential New Yorkers
Bernard is the host of two weekly television programs. A R Bernard and Faith In Practice - airing nationally on FamilyNet Television, Daystar Television and The Trinity Broadcasting Network. Bernard's radio broadcasts can be heard nationwide on Salem Communication stations, on FamilyNet Radio SIRIUS Channel 161, and locally within New York’s tri-state area on WMCA and WLIB.