Reverend DeForest Blake "Buster" Soaries, Jr. (born August 20, 1951, in Brooklyn, New York) is an African-American Baptist minister, author and public advocate, from Montclair, New Jersey. He is the former Secretary of State of New Jersey and former chairman of the federal Election Assistance Commission. Additionally, he is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey, a position he has held since November 1990.
Soaries received a Bachelor of Arts from Fordham University; a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary; and a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary. He has also received five honorary Doctorate degrees from other institutions.
Soaries served as Secretary of State of New Jersey from January 1999 through January 2002 under then-Governor Christine Todd Whitman. In that position he endorsed further funding for the arts, and served as an unofficial general advisor to the governor. He also created V-FREE, a statewide youth violence prevention program.
A proponent of faith-based community development, and of President Bush's faith-based initiative, Soaries, through church donations, formed several non-profit community development agencies, including the Renaissance Community Development Credit Union, Renaissance Education & Technology Academy and the Harvest of Hope Family Services Network.
In 2005, Soaries began a pilot program entitled dfree at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens. dfree is a strategy to help individuals, families and organizations get out of debt, overcome the culture of debt and attain financial independence. After four years of using the dfree strategy to motivate families to pay off debt and use resources that facilitate financial freedom. In 2010, Soaries was the subject of a CNN documentary investigation into the creative and proactive ways an African-American faith community is addressing the challenges of the national economic crisis.
Soaries preaches a gospel of personal financial responsibility, and cultivating a value system of "faith in action" – expressed as optimism rooted in reality. He wants to help his parishioners – and Black America – achieve spiritual growth, educational excellence and economic empowerment.