Mr. Warnock, a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, graduated from Morehouse College in 1991 before heading to New York City to study at Union Theological Seminary, staying in the city for about a decade.
It was in New York, former classmates said, that he deepened his instincts to put the teachings of his faith into practice in the public square. He studied under, among others, the Rev. Dr. James H. Cone, a founder of Black liberation theology, which emphasizes the experiences of the oppressed.
And at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, where Mr. Warnock became assistant pastor, he immersed himself in a world of Black civic and political activism. He was arrested at a protest for the first time in New York, objecting to the police killing of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed Guinean immigrant. His own brother was sentenced to life in prison, in a nonviolent drug-related offense involving an F.B.I. informant, a turn of events that shaped Mr. Warnock’s views of the criminal justice system. (His brother was released in 2020.)
It was during his time in New York, Mr. Warnock later wrote, that the idea of running for Congress first occurred to him. But it would be years before he did so. Instead, he built a preaching career that eventually brought him to Atlanta, and to Ebenezer.
As a pastor, Mr. Warnock condemned police brutality and racial injustice and championed expanding Medicaid. Encouraged by Georgia’s changing demographics, he wrote, he considered running for the Senate in the 2014 and 2016 cycles before seeking the seat vacated when Senator Johnny Isakson, a Republican, announced his retirement. He won after a January 2021 runoff that helped to deliver control of the Senate to the Democrats.
In that contest, as in this year’s, Mr. Warnock leaned heavily into his identity as a pastor, making it harder for Republicans to cast him as a generic Democrat.