presidents united church of christ, karen Georgia Thompson

Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson Is The First Black Woman To Be President Of The United Church Of Christ

In a spectacular development, Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson has been elected as the first woman to lead the United Church of Christ. Replacing Rev. John Dorhauer, who held office starting in 2015, Thompson hopes to usher in a new era of beginnings.

An immigrant hailing from Jamaica, Thompson is unparalleled in her achievements. In 2009, she began her work in the National Setting of the United Church of Christ as minister of racial justice and minister of ecumenical and interfaith relations. For the past four years, she served as associate general minister for Wider Church Ministries and as co-executive for Global Ministries.

Those capacities equipped her with a singular understanding of the church and the consequences it faces when racial inequity is left unaddressed and progress stagnates. While the United Church of Christ has been commended for its wide acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community compared to its denominational counterparts, the reverend says there are still changes to be made within the church. Prior to her nomination, Thompson spoke before the UCC board, saying, “Decolonizing the church on all levels has to be a priority. Decolonizing the church includes our commitment to racial justice and more. Being anti-racist and inclusive requires that we decolonize our institutions in ways that afford all to be present and participate equally. This is a commitment to equity for all.”

Thompson holds credentials from many universities, having received her doctorate in ministry from Seattle University, where she also completed her dissertation on religious multiplicity among African Caribbeans. She earned a master of divinity from Union Theological Seminary as well as a master of public administration from North Carolina Central University.

Thompson is the third woman to have been nominated for the position of general minister and president, preceded by Rev. Yvonne Delk in 1989 and Barbara Zikmund in 1999. However, she is the first to be elected in the church’s 66 years. Thompson is the third person of African descent to serve in this role. She will begin her next chapter on August 1.

“As I stand here before you as your newly and duly elected general minister and president, I stand here as a Jamaican immigrant woman, a mother and a grandmother, a sister, and a friend to many,” Thompson shared with the congregation following her election. “The enormity of this moment will be with me for many years to come.”

After the vote, while praying with her family, Thompson reiterated a Synod theme. It was a single Bible verse, Revelation 21:5—“Behold, I am making everything new.”

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