Leontine Turpeau Current Kelly (1920-2012) was the first African-American women to be elected bishop in any major Christian denomination and the second woman bishop in The United Methodist Church. The daughter of a pastor, she counted among her early influences educator Mary McCloud Bethune, who told her when she was a child that she “must plan to be somebody.” She did not plan to be a minister, however; she was a school teacher and lay speaker who agreed temporarily to pastor a church in West Virginia after the death of its former pastor, her husband James David Kelly. Hearing her own call to ministry, she headed back to school, this time a seminary. Leontine Kelly was ordained a deacon in 1972 and an elder in 1977. In 1984, her name was put forth for election as bishop in all five jurisdictions and she was elected to the episcopacy in the Western jurisdiction. She was assigned to the San Francisco Episcopal area until her retirement in 1988.
Watch a video on Kelly’s life.
Read her Los Angeles Times obituary.
A biography by her daughter, Angella Current