Bishop Leontine T. C. Kelly is the first black woman bishop of a major religious denomination in the US of A. In 1984 she was elected a Bishop of the UMC. Following retirement she became a professor at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.

“My father was a Methodist minister. I was born in the parsonage of Mount Zion Methodist Episcopal Church in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. One of the stories in our family is that the second black bishop elected in the Methodist church baptized me when I was three months old. The story goes that when he handed me back to my mother, he said, ‘How I wish you were a boy, so that my mantle could fall on you.’ He’d probably turn over in his grave at the idea of a woman being a bishop in the church.”

“There has been an ordination and an acceptance, but women still work toward equality in the church. It isn’t there yet, it’s like society.

Some people use the Corinthian scripture of Paul saying women should not speak in the church. But we could find our own scriptures to substantiate why women should be allowed to speak.

I believe in a called ministry, a sense of assurance that there is something specific for you to do. For me, it was a year after my husband’s death, the people asked me to serve the church that he pastored. Paul didn’t call me. I believe God called me to the ordained ministry. I was willing to go that journey and it has been sustained.”

“I’ve never been accused of not being outspoken. I crusaded for women as well as all ethnics in the church. Our proclamations and resolutions are great. We have yet to live them out….

… We privatize our religion such that it makes it safe for people to be Christian. And Christianity is not safe. If you’re going to follow Jesus, then it’s risky to do that.

For me, the crux of the gospel message is the way we share power. One of the things women bring to the situation in terms of sharing power is new styles of leadership. I am no less the bishop. I know where the buck stops and who is responsible. But that doesn’t mean that I have to exert power in such a way that other people feel they are less than who they are because of who I am.

Bishop Leontine T. C. Kelly, I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America

photograph of a street corner in Houston, Texas, the home of St. John's Downtown UMC Houston

After reading and pondering the words of Bishop Kelly, I went on a photography walk around a corner that is home of a movement called The LOVErEVOLution. It has been a place of unconditional love for about 19 years or so now, offering shelter, home, food, healing, family and life for people from all walks of life who are in need of experiencing the Word– LOVE — taking on flesh and moving into the neighborhood.

I have traveled many places in this world, and have not encountered anything quite like it yet. It was only right I would prayerfully (no JOKE friends) open the book on Bishop Kelly and take in her words before receiving time at this very spot for the day.

Right before I took this picture a gentleman walking out of the church’s non-profit entity serving and journeying with some of the neighborhood’s people living on the street or transitioning off of the streets, said to me “Hi darlin’, it’s good to see you.”

I looked at him with a smile and said, “It’s good to be seen.”

I could tell my response caught him off guard a bit, he paused and after a few seconds of silence he said, “I like that. It’s good to be seen. I like it.”

“My friend Woody, in Nashville, taught me that blessing,” replied.

We smiled at each other for a second or two and then went our separate ways. Having taken just a minute or two to see and be seen by each other.

I hope God will continue to birth movements that bear witness to another way, a new order.

One by which people see and are seen by each other;

Where people allow themselves to receive the gift of loving, truly love and being loved by another.

One by words are not merely proclamations flowing like pleasantries from our lips,

or create thick books of resolutions and rules of order.

But one where,

“Human beings will rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Perhaps on that day we will refuse the gains made at the expense of others and our success will be measured by the quality of our servanthood to humanity.” Robert Lupton

AND

our Love.

lar

Memphis Pilgrimage of Pain & Hope 2011

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