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Overview

Biographical Note

Scope and Content

Arrangement

Preferred Citation

Restrictions on Access

Restrictions on Use

Related Material

Subject Terms

Container List [ + ]

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Guide to the Leontine T.C. 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

3/26/2004


Overview of Records

Record Creator: Kelly, Leontine
Title: Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly
Dates: 1967- 1996
Abstract: Bishop Leontine T.C. 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: gcah.ms.2712



Biographical Note

Bishop Leontine T.C. 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 Leontine Turpeau Current Kelly and the Methodist Church made history when 64-year-old Kelly 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 T.C. 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.


Arrangement

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 T.C. 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
AIDS (Disease)
Abortion
African American universities and colleges
African Americans
Bishops.
Homelessness
Homosexuality
Labor
Peace movements
Racism
Women
Subject Geographic
California.
Genre
Articles
Awards
Clippings
Minutes
News releases
Photographs
Publications
Reports
Schedules.
Sheet music
Correspondence
Occupations
Bishop Minister.


Container List


Series: Correspondences
Call Number Folder Title Date(s)

Series: Social Concerns
Call Number Folder Title Date(s)

Series: Speaking Engagements
Sub-series: Correspondences
Call Number Folder Title Date(s)
Sub-series: News and Clippings
Call Number Folder Title Date(s)
Sub-series: Publications and Schedules
Call Number Folder Title Date(s)
Sub-series: Sermon Material, Sheet Music and Awards
Call Number Folder Title Date(s)