Thanks…Bishop Leontine Kelly

Bishop Leontine T. Kelly died on June 28, 2012. I just found some words I wrote when she visited the church I served in 2003…

“Words for the Edge of My Soul”

On Sunday, March 23, Bishop Leontine Kelly will be our guest preacher for Reconciling Sunday.

There is much that can be said to praise this fiery octogenarian. In 1984, she was the first African-American woman consecrated a Bishop in the history of the Christian church. Repeat that last sentence! We date time based on the historic guesses about Jesus’ birth year. 1,984 years later a black woman becomes a bishop. The church has never been in a hurry.

Bishop Kelly…photo from CNUMC webpage

She was only the second woman in the United Methodist church consecrated Bishop. She’s a mother, been a teacher, served as a pastor in a local church, walked side-by-side with Desmond Tutu, and has been honored by the Ladies Home Journal as one of the most important women in America.

With all of her accolades, I remember one thing more than anything else about Bishop Kelly. She was my bishop in the relatively brief time she served as an active Episcopal leader between 1984-88. Thus, I heard her preach at least once a year at our annual conference of the California-Nevada United Methodists.

During one of her sermons, during one of the many worship services we have throughout a conference, she spoke a phrase that went straight to my soul. The phrase she spoke hit me with the force of personal truth.

Indeed, the phrase she used in the midst of that sermon is prominently displayed on the bookshelf in my office. I want those words around to remind me of that riveting moment long ago and to challenge me every time I glance at them. Continue reading →