The first woman ever elected as bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in the United States says she wants to be remembered as one who opened the door of church leadership to black Christian women around the world.

The AME is the first of three big African-American churches—the others are AME Zion and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church—to appoint a woman bishop.

Bishop Vashti McKenzie, widely recognized as an expert on the theological and historical struggles of black women in the church, was elected bishop on July 11 at the national AME Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. The church, which has more than 3 million members, most of them in the US, but also in Canada, England, and in African and Caribbean countries, holds its US national conference every four years. About 1,800 delegates attended the meeting in Cincinnati.

McKenzie, 53, was one of two women among the 42 candidates for the rank of bishop. Three other pastors, all men, were also appointed as bishops in the AME, which now has a total of 24 bishops. Women account for about 70 percent of the membership of the church, which has about 6,000 ministers. A leading church official recently stated that less than 1 percent of senior pastors in the AME are women.

At he end of September McKenzie will leave the US to head the church's 18th District, which includes 200 churches and 10,000 members in Swaziland, Botswana, Mozambique and Lesotho.

In 1990 she was appointed as the first female pastor of Payne Memorial AME in Baltimore, where she is credited with tripling the membership and creating 15 new community ministries.

In an interview with ENI after her election as bishop, Vashti McKenzie said that in Africa she expected to make economic development, human rights, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.