Black Churches in America
Courtesy of Mike DuBoise, United Methodist News Service
In the summer of 1969, Leontine Kelly felt a call to become an ordained minister and left her full-time job teaching high school to devote herself to formal study for a degree in theology. Her subsequent rise within the hierarchy of the United Methodist Church illustrates the expanding opportunities for women to serve as religious leaders in the late twentieth century. Highly active in the United Methodist clergywomen's movement, a campaign devoted to greater involvement of clergywomen in all areas of church activity, in 1984 Kelly was elected bishop after only nine years of service as a pastor. She thus became the first African American woman to be bishop of any major religious denomination in the United States, but was certainly not the last — four more African American women have been elected bishops in the Methodist Church since Kelly's retirement in 1988. In October 2000, Kelly was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.