Leontine Kelly

Leontine Kelly Dead

United Methodist Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly. RNS photo by Mike DuBose / United Methodist News Service

(RNS) Retired United Methodist Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly, the first African-American woman elected to the episcopacy by a major religious denomination, died Thursday (June 28). The teacher, pastoral leader and activist was considered a pioneer for her ministry of more than two decades. She was 92.

Her death was reported by United Methodist News Service.

Bishop Judith Craig, who was elected a Methodist bishop just hours after Kelly in 1984, recalled the pioneer’s “audacious” life.

“She never ran from challenge or controversy, and she also stood fast in her convictions,” Craig told the denominational news service.

A preacher’s daughter who vowed never to marry a minister, but did, found herself called to become one. Trained as a public school teacher, Kelly made the ministry her second career when she started pastoring a Methodist church in Virginia in 1969 after her husband’s death. She was ordained a deacon in 1972 and an elder in 1977.

In 1984, she was named the first African-American woman and the second woman elected bishop in the United Methodist Church. She was charged with heading the denomination’s Western Jurisdiction, which included California and Nevada. Kelly served in the San Francisco area from 1984 until her retirement in 1992.  read more

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