NEW YORK, NEW YORK
The Riverside Church in New York City has been no stranger to controversy over the years. Built in 1930, the church's first pastor, Harry Emerson Fosdick was noted for his liberal theology. Since the days of Fosdick's ministry, the church has continued to espouse and further many theologically liberal views.
Today the church, while considered interdenominational, is affiliated with both the United Church of Christ and the American Baptist Church, and until recently was pastored by Dr. James Alexander Forbes, Jr. But Forbes' recent retirement in December of 2006 brought the need to search for a new pastor. Thus a search committee was formed to find just the right 'person' for the job.
"This church has always been on the cutting edge when it comes to spirituality" said Faye Myers, the head of the pastoral search committee. "We weren't just going to limit our search to white men, or even men for that fact. Whether or not the candidate was gay, lesbian or transgendered made no difference to us. Our search was not about us and our prejudice but about where the spirit would lead us."
Numerous resumes and applications were examined. A number of candidates were called and interviewed until finally the committee just found the right 'person' for the job - Koko the 'talking gorilla.'
Koko, the 36-year-old gorilla, is famous for supposedly being able to communicate with humans through the use of American sign language. Born in 1971, Koko has been taught by her trainer, Dr. Francine Patterson and other scientists to learn over 1000 signs. While some have questioned as to whether or not Koko has truly developed the ability to have independent cognitive thoughts, many herald her accomplishments as a major breakthrough in connecting humanity with its evolutionary past.
Koko's call to become the pastor of Riverside is the first time in history that a non-homosapien has ever been called to 'pastor' a Christian church of any kind.
"We realize that this is going to be considered by some to be unorthodox" said Myers. "But we view this as an opportunity to spread the love of all life. Koko will be able to teach us things about God that a human just couldn't achieve."
Koko glady accepted the call to pastor the church signing the phrase "I for kitten apple, apple, apple, in the sky, apple," which was interpreted by her translator to mean "I gladly and whole-heartedly accept this gracious opportunity to lead this congregation on the pathway of faith." She will preach her first 'sermon' on June 1, 2007. A translator will be present at every service to interpret Koko's sign language, and she will be rewarded with bananas after ever message.