African American Hero of the Day

African American Almanac
ISBN: 9781578593231
$27.95

Who is the first woman to become a bishop in the AME Church?

  • She is bishop of the 18th Episcopal District in Southeast Africa.
  • She started her career in journalism and has a B.A. in the subject from the University of Maryland.
  • She became the first female pastor of Payne Memorial Church in Baltimore in 1990.
  • She had founded orphanages for children whose parents died from AIDS.


Vashti Murphy McKenzie (1947-)

African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop

McKenzie was born May 30, 1947, in Baltimore, Maryland, to a family who had generationally been contributors to the community in publishing, politics, and organization building. McKenzie began her undergraduate work at Morgan State University but left her junior year to marry Stan McKenzie of the Baltimore Bullets basketball franchise. She moved to Phoenix and remained there until her husband's retirement when they returned to Baltimore. McKenzie completed her undergraduate education at the University of Maryland, College Park earning a B.A in journalism. She began working at her family-owned newspaper, but later felt the calling to the preaching ministry.

To prepare for her role in the ministry, McKenzie attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., and earned a Master of Divinity degree and earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Union Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. In 1985 at the age of thirty-eight she became fully ordained and was appointed the pastor of Oak Street African Methodist Episcopal [AME] Church in Baltimore. In 1990 McKenzie she became the first female pastor of Payne Memorial Church in Baltimore and by 1997 McKenzie was named by Ebony magazine as one of the 15 greatest African American Female Preachers. After ten years of service Payne Memorial grew from 300 members to 1,700 and McKenzie also contributed to the positive growth of the community through programs and nonprofit services. She overcame the challenges of sexism and other obstacles, and on July 11, 2000, she was elected as the first female bishop in the 213 year history of the AME Church.

Bishop McKenzie is bishop of the 18th Episcopal District in Southeast Africa. She has started orphanages and provided support services for children who lost their parents to the AIDS epidemic. Her publications include Strength in the Struggle: Leadership Development for Women (2001) and Journey to the Well (2002). She is the recipient of numerous awards while serving as a role model of the achievements that women can accomplish.

From African American Almanac: 400 Years of Triumph, Courage and Excellence by Lean'tin Bracks, (c) 2012 Visible Ink Press(R). A wealth of milestones, inspiration, and challenges met . . .

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