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When a bishop’s post arose in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in 2010, Teresa Jefferson-Snorton looked around to see if any women were volunteering to run for office. None were.

She knew that since its founding 140 years earlier by black Methodists coming out of slavery, the denomination had never elected a female bishop.

“I was like, oh my God, this can’t be,” she recalls. “If no one comes forward, that gives a pass to the church.”

Jefferson-Snorton, who had spent decades as a pastor, chaplain, and theological educator, undertook several months of intensive prayer before discerning that she “felt a call to it” from God. Then she came up with her name.

“To a certain extent, it was a political statement,” Jefferson-Snorton said.

Despite opposition from some who said the denomination was not ready for a female bishop, she was elected the 59th bishop of CME, overseeing 217 churches in Alabama and Florida. FOR MORE

Women’s Leadership in the African American Church

In African American churches, women’s leadership includes all areas of responsibility—from the more traditional roles as leaders of women in missionary societies and women’s groups, to congregational leaders in areas such as Christian education and pastoral ministry.

My reflection on women’s leadership in African American churches will include a brief overview of women’s leadership, potential impediments to women’s leadership, approaches to addressing these obstacles, some of the contributions of African American women, and signs of hope and encouragement.

While African American women represent an estimated 66–88 percent majority (Barnes, 2006) in African American churches, men still tend to hold most of the leadership roles. The greatest disparity in women’s leadership is in the pastoral role, specifically the senior pastor. Despite these challenges, women are being ordained and appointed as pastors and bishops at increasing rates. The appointment of Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie in 2000 as the first woman bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church was an important step toward gender inclusivity. FOR MORE

Gina Stewart becomes first woman elected to lead US Black Baptist organization

(RNS/AP) — Most major Black Christian denominations in the U.S. have no doctrinal bar to ordained women leaders. Yet denominational leadership remained all-male until the 21st century, and women are still the exception in the top rungs.

The Reverend Dr. Gina Marcia Stewart is a pastor, preacher, visionary, builder, mentor, adjunct professor, and daughter of Christ Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. She has led the congregation of Christ Missionary Baptist Church since March 1995. She is a native Memphian and “daughter” of CMBC, where she was baptized and mentored for ministry by her predecessor and former pastor, the Rev. Eddie L Currie. On March 4, 1995, she was elected by majority vote to serve as the pastor of CMBC. She is the first African American female elected to serve an established African American Baptist congregation in Memphis and Shelby County. Under Dr. Stewart’s leadership, CMBC has experienced significant numerical, physical, and financial growth. The church offers more than fifty ministries that are intended to minister to the spirit, soul, and body of every person and lead to personal transformation. FOR MORE

women leadership, womens history

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