Vashti McKenzie, first woman bishop in AME church, to retire in July

Vashti Murphy McKenzie, the first woman to be elected as a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, will retire from active ministry at the AME general conference in July. She currently leads the AME’s tenth district, which encompasses the entire state of Texas.

The AME denomination retires all bishops at the general conference closest to their 75th birthday. (The general conference takes place every four years.) McKenzie was scheduled to retire in 2020, but the general conference was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

McKenzie’s election as a bishop in 2000 was a historic moment for the oldest Black denomination in the United States. Women had been preaching in AME churches since 1787, but they were not allowed to be ordained until 1960. Twenty years later, women began running for episcopal office but without success.