Bishop Leontine Kelly died at age 92 on June 28, 2012. She was the first female African-American bishop in the US and in the United Methodist Church. She had an unusual career and there were many unlikely turns that brought her to the prominent position in the church. That story is readily available in other places.
Part of the back story is that there was great interest in the role of women in the church in 1984 when she was elected. And it was the much more liberal Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church that elected her to office. (The UMC in the US is divided into five regional bodies.) Bishop Kelly was a member of the Virginia Annual Conference. And it was the San Francisco Area, California-Nevada Annual Conference received her to be their bishop.
She was our bishop and my bishop. I was mesmerized with her preaching that was at once energetic, poetic and resonated with my theology. And it was deeply personal. Listening to her I learned about the underground railroad from the perspective of those whose family members had travelled on it. This is a much different perspective than textbooks. She was a great blessing to me and I thank God for her leadership and her presence among us.
And although it is not very good grammar, it used to delight me when I was sitting in multi-denominational minister gatherings and began a sentence, “My bishop, she…”