On April 8, 2016, Bishop John Richard Bryant, Senior Bishop of the AME Church announced that the Council of Bishops met on Wednesday April 6, 2016 and decided to ordain Jarena Lee posthumously during the 50th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference.
Jarena Lee was born in 1783 to free but poor black parents, she was sent to work as a live-in servant at the age of 7. After hearing a sermon by Richard Allen, the founder of the African Methodist Church (AME), Lee underwent an intense and protracted conversion. Yet she had doubts. She later wrote:
But to my utter surprise there seemed to sound a voice which I thought I distinctly heard, and most certainly understand, which said to me, “Go preach the Gospel!” I immediately replied aloud, “No one will believe me.” Again I listened and again the same voice seemed to say “Preach the Gospel; I will put words in your mouth and will turn your enemies to become your friends.”
In 1819, at a time when women were forbidden to preach by social and religious customs, Jarena Lee was the first woman to be authorized to preach by Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Being a black woman in the United States, she still faced hostility in her ministry despite Allen’s blessing. She became a traveling minster, and in one year alone, she “travelled two thousand three hundred and twenty-five miles, and preached one hundred and seventy-eight sermons.” Read a excerpt from Jarena Lee describing her first journey as an itinerant preacher at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part3/3h1638t.html
The Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown, Historiographer and Executive Director, Department of Research and Scholarship for the African Methodist Episcopal Church offered the following statement, “We thank God for the work of AMEWIM over the years. We are especially grateful for the guidance and advice of Bishop Carolyn Tyler Guidry. We are also thankful for the diligence of our Connectional President, the Rev. Kimberly L. Detherage, Esq.”
To God Be the Glory!