New Search > Return to Search Results> Guide to the Leontine Turpeau Current Kelly Collection


Biographical Note

Scope and Content


Preferred Citation

Restrictions on Access

Restrictions on Use

Related Material

Subject Terms

Container List [ + ]

You can print a clean version of this finding aid by selecting FIle -> Print from the menu above or you can download a nicely formatted pdf version from here

Guide to the Leontine Turpeau Current Kelly Collection

Prepared by Lacey Brother, Student Assistant and Mark C. Shenise, Associate Archivist

United Methodist Archives and History Center
General Commission on Archives and History, Madison, New Jersey


Overview of Records

Record Creator: Kelly, Leontine Turpeau Current
Title: Bishop Leontine Turpeau Current Kelly
Dates: 1967- 1996 Click here to view the finding aid format suitable for requesting material at the Archives
Abstract: Bishop Leontine Turpeau Current Kelly was the first African American Woman to be elected bishop, not only in the United Methodist Church, but in any major denomination.
Extent: 1.47 cu. feet
Resource ID:

Biographical Note

Bishop Leontine Turpeau Current Kelly was born on March 5, 1920 in Washington, D.C., to the Reverend David DeWitt Turpeau and Ila Mashall Turpeau.

The Washington Annual Conference elected Matthew Clair a bishop, the second African American to be elected bishop. Bishop Clair baptized Leontine Turpeau that day.

According to family narratives, Bishop Clair stated on this day, "Oh, how I wish you were a boy so that my mantle might fall upon you." Sixty years later, it did.

Leontine Kelly's life is rooted in Methodism. Her father and brother were both Methodist ministers. Kelly attended West Virginia State College for three years, but left to marry Gloster Bryant Current in 194l after her junior year. They had three children together before their divorce in the early 1950s.

In 1956,Leontine Kelly married Methodist minister James Kelly. She returned to college and completed her B.A. in 1960 at Virginia Union University, and took a position as a social studies teacher. Though Kelly was a certified lay speaker, she did not become a pastor until the death of her husband in 1969, when she accepted an invitation from Galilee Church to be his successor. In 1976 she obtained her master's of divinity degree from Wesley Theological Seminary, thus becoming an ordained minister.

From 1977 to 1983, Kelly was pastor of Asbury-Church Hill United Methodist Church in Richmond, Virginia. In 1983 she became the assistant general secretary of evangelism for the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship in Nashville.

Kelly received her doctor of divinity degree in 1984 from the Garrett Evangelical Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. In July 1984, Kelly and the Methodist Church made history when 64-year-old clergywomen was elected bishop of the California-Nevada Conference. Kelly thus became the first African American woman to be elected bishop, not only in the Methodist Church, but in any major denomination.

She also became the first woman to preach on the National Radio Pulpit, the first woman to serve as assistant general secretary of the Board of Discipleship's Evangelical Unit, and the only woman bishop to participate and be arrested in the Good Friday Livermore Weapons Laboratory protest in 1985. In 1956, Kelly became the first African American female bishop to address an international meeting of Methodists - the World Methodist Council in Nairobi.

Kelly retired in 1988 at the age of 68. She continued her work as a preacher, teacher, and social activist. Some of her numerous post- retirement activities include, serving as visiting professor of evangelism and witness for two years at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, and serving as adjunct professor at Pacific School of Religion and Hartford Seminary.

Continuing her social activism, Kelly became the president of the AIDS National Interfaith Network (ANIN) and president of the Interreligious Health Care ACCESS Campaign. On top of these numerous responsibilities Kelly maintained a full speaking and preaching schedule. Due to her active and historic service Kelly received more than ten honorary degrees, the Martin Luther King Drum Major for Justice award, the Grass Roots Leadership Award for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Ebony Magazine's Black Achievement Award in the area of religion. She was featured in Brian Lanker's book I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women who have Changed America, as well as in Diana Hayes' book , And Still We Rise. Kelly was her inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York in October 2000.

Scope Note

Leontine Turpeau Current Kelly's personal papers include materials pertaining to her election as bishop to the California-Nevada Conference and her activities before and after her election. The collection includes a large number of correspondences related to speaking engagements, social concerns, and a variety of other topics including her election to be the first African American female bishop, personal correspondences, and awards. Also included in this collection are clippings, publications, awards, sermon materials and sheet music.


Materials have been arranged in the following manner.

Series: Correspondences
Series: Social Concerns
Series: Speaking Engagements
subseries: Correspondences
subseries: News and Clippings
subseries: Publications and Schedules
subseries: Sermon Material, Sheet Music and Awards

Preferred Citation

When citing material from this collection please use the following format: Direct reference to the item or its file folder, Leontine Turpeau Current. Kelly Collection, United Methodist Church Archives - GCAH, Madison, New Jersey. Do not make use of the item's call number as that is not a stable descriptor.

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions regarding this collection.

Restrictions on Use

Detailed use Restrictions relating to our collections can be requested from the office of the archivist at the General Commission on Archives and History. Photocopying is handled by the staff and may be limited in certain instances. Before using any material for publication from this collection a formal request for permission to publish is expected and required.

Related Material

Accession: 1996- 069. United Methodist Bishops' Oral History Project

General Board of Global Ministries. Mission Education

General Board of Global Ministries. National Division.

Subject Terms

Subject Names - Corporate
United Methodist Church (U.S.)
Subject Topics
African American universities and colleges
African Americans
Churches, Methodist
Peace movements
Subject Geographic
News releases
Pins (Jewelry)
Sheet music
Bishop Minister.

Container List

Series: Correspondences
Call Number Folder Title Date(s)
1554-3-3: 1 General (Folder 1) 1973-1987
1554-3-3: 2 General (Folder 2) 1988-1996
1554-3-3: 3 Election as Bishop 1983-1995
1554-3-3: 5 Personal 1982-1995
1554-3-3: 6 Retirement 1988-1993
1554-3-4: 1 California-Nevada Conference 1984-1985
1554-3-4: 2 California-Nevada Conference 1986
1554-3-4: 3 California-Nevada Conference 1987
1554-3-4: 4 California-Nevada Conference 1988-1994

Series: Social Concerns
Call Number Folder Title Date(s)
1554-3-2: 6 Abortion 1987
1554-3-2: 7 AIDS 1987-1988
1554-3-2: 8 Ethnic Minorities and Race Relations 1986-1996
1554-3-2: 9 General Social Concerns 1988-1996
1554-3-2: 10 Grape Boycott 1986-1988
1554-3-2: 11 Health Care 1993-1996
1554-3-2: 12 Homelessness 1987-1993
1554-3-2: 13 Homosexuality 1987-1988
1554-3-2: 14 Infant Formula 1985-1987
1554-3-2: 15 Labor 1993-1994
1554-3-2: 16 Peace Movement 1985-1996

Series: Speaking Engagements
Sub-series: Correspondences
Call Number Folder Title Date(s)
1554-3-1: 1 Correspondences (Folder 1) 1979-1987
1554-3-1: 2 Correspondences (Folder 2) 1988-1992
1554-3-1: 3 Correspondences (Folder 3) 1993-1994
1554-3-1: 4 Correspondences (Folder 4) 1995-1996
Sub-series: News and Clippings
Call Number Folder Title Date(s)
1554-3-2: 2 News and Clippings 1983-1995
Sub-series: Publications and Schedules
Call Number Folder Title Date(s)
1554-3-1: 5 Publications and Schedules (Folder 1) 1983-1986
1554-3-1: 6 Publications and Schedules (Folder 2) 1987
1554-3-1: 7 Publications and Schedules (Folder 3) 1988-1992
1554-3-2: 1 Publications and Schedules (Folder 4) 1993-1996
Sub-series: Sermon Material, Sheet Music and Awards
Call Number Folder Title Date(s)
1554-3-2: 3 Sermon Material 1985-1996
1554-3-2: 4 Sheet Music 1967-1985
1554-3-2: 5 Awards 1986-1988