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Although Vashti McKenzie represents the African Methodist Episcopal

Church, she characterizes for me and others hope for equality for

all women in the ministry. The AME Church has historically

made some major accomplishments concerning women in ministry



Books by Vashti Murphy Mckenzie

Not Without Struggle (Pilgrim Press,1996) / Strength in the Struggle (Pilgrim Press, 2002) / Journey to the Well  (Penguin, 2003)

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Reverend Dr. Vashti Murphy McKenzie

First Woman Bishop in the AME Church

By Jennifer McGill


Reverend Dr. Vashti McKenzie is a woman of firsts. She was the first woman to pastor at Payne Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland. On July 11, 2000, the AME Church elected her its first female bishop in its 213-year history. The AME Church will never be the same.

May 30, 1947, Dr. McKenzie was born into the well-known Murphy clan of Baltimore, an established family with a history in publishing, politics, and the social advancement of the Negro. Her great grandfather John H. Murphy started the Afro-American Newspaper in 1892; her grandfather Carl H. Murphy succeeded his father as publisher and editor, and her grandmother Vashti Turly Murphy was a founding member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, a Christian African-American college sorority that currently has a national membership of more than 250,000.

Vashti's family lived a wonderful balance between career and faith, maintaining God as the central focus of their family life. Dr. McKenzie's parents were avid church members at St. James Episcopal Church. Vashti has described herself as a "church child," for she was active in the children's choir and Bible camp. While attending Morgan State University, Vashti met her future husband, Stan McKenzie of the Baltimore Bullets basketball team. During her junior year he was traded to the Phoenix Suns, and he asked her to marry him. Despite her parents' desires for her to complete school she married Stan and moved to Phoenix.

After Stan McKenzie's retirement they moved back to Baltimore and Vashti resumed her education, earning a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.

After graduating she started working for her family newspaper and wrote a column, "The McKenzie Report." She thereafter hosted a television show and worked for WEBB and WYBC, two local gospel radio stations. Her abilities were rewarded with a promotion to program director. She was also news reporter at the Arizona Republic newspaper and became Corporate Vice-President of programming for WJZ-TV in Baltimore.

As a radio host, Vashti often received telephone calls from individuals who were searching for a listening ear, a caring someone to answer life's pressing questions. After a period of fasting and praying, Vashti felt called by the Spirit to the preaching ministry. She then joined Bethel AME Church in Baltimore, Maryland, which was then under the leadership of the well-respected and popular Reverend John Bryant. As a member of that congregation, Vashti visited the sick and assisted in promoting church activities through the media.

To prepare herself more formally for her new vocation, Vashti attended Howard University, in Washington, DC, and received a Master of Divinity degree. She then went on to earn the Doctor of Ministry degree from Union Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. In 1984 she was ordained a deacon and assigned to a seven-member congregation in Chesapeake City, Maryland. After one year she was fully ordained and appointed the pastor of Oak Street AME Church in midtown Baltimore. After a few short years, Dr. McKenzie was selected as pastor of Payne Memorial AME Church, becoming the first woman pastor in that congregation's 102-year history. During her 10 years as Payne Memorial, Vashti McKenzie and the Payne Memorial Church helped transform a fledgling inner-city community into a viable place to live and created training programs for employment.

Together the Payne congregation and Vashti developed the Human Economic Development Center that provides job training and placement, Seniors daycare, and youth and adult-education programs. She also joined with other churches, with banks and officials to form the Collective Banking Group which ensures equal treatment and opportunity by lending institutions. Such community involvement promoted church growth, increasing membership from 440 at her arrival to well over 1500. These successes were not Vashti's alone. She readily acknowledges the contribution of her members' gifts, talents, and time.

Because Dr. McKenzie desired to expand her ministry globally, she announced her campaign for bishop. Dr. Vashti McKenzie utilized her journalism and marketing experience in her campaign to become the first female AME bishop. Flyers, commercials, and T-shirts flooded the Cincinnati conference hall. many described the event as a presidential campaign complete with shaking hands, kissing babies, and making contacts. Dr. McKenzie stated upon her election, "The stained glass ceiling has been pierced and broken!"

Although Vashti McKenzie represents the African Methodist Episcopal Church, she characterizes for me and others hope for equality for all women in the ministry. The AME Church has historically made some major accomplishments concerning women in ministry. The door to the position of bishop for women, however, had been closed for 213 years. Dr. McKenzie addressed the women upon her election, "I stand here tonight on the shoulders of the unordained, women who serve without affirmation or appointment. I don't stand here alone, but there is a cloud of witnesses who sacrificed, died and gave their best."

The election to bishop of Vashti McKenzie has given new hope and laid the groundwork for other women in Methodism and other denominations to pursue non-traditional church positions. I do not advocate nevertheless that women seek these non-traditional roles for the sake of self-glorification and personal enhancement. but that they pursue unashamedly such positions to which god calls them, whatever the previous gender tradition.

Dr. McKenzie's election has thus changed the thinking of people that thought women were not capable of serving in high leadership church positions because of their gender. What is even more noteworthy is that Vashti has represented the ministry well by her skills and her humility. I expected no less than great results. As bishop of the 18th Episcopal District, Dr. McKenzie has started orphanages and parental-support systems for children who lost their parents to the devastating AIDS epidemic in Botswana and Mozambique.

Dr. McKenzie continues in her new position as a role model as she confronts life's obstacles directly, solving them with creative solutions. As a fellow Baltimorean, I have witnessed and experienced the effect of Vashti's leadership, locally. It was through her guidance that women preachers from all denominations came together to discuss and participate in united services. A religious "sisterhood" was developed and the lives of Christian women, preachers, and laity, and even those of non-Christians, have been transformed through her encouragement, correction, and support.

Dr. McKenzie has been a role model for me. Her presence affirms, "Yes, I can have it all; a family and career at the same time." Always regal in appearance and eloquent in speech, her presence alone has been a validation for women clergy. Vashti has even verbally stated that it is OK to be beautiful, intelligent, and used by God. The myth still abounds that a woman must choose between her preaching career and her family. Even with her ecclesiastical success Dr. McKenzie continues to receive the support of her husband and her three children.

After her election as bishop, people began a barrage of questions, "What is she going to do about her family? Will they accompany her? And what type of mother would leave her children in the states?" As these questions floated around me, I realized that there is still much to be done in changing the mindset concerning women in the clergy. Recently, my cousin and I were in conversation and she shared her feelings about my desire to pursue a doctorate in philosophy, she said, "No man is going to run around the country behind you while you pursue your career, Jennifer, that is not likely." Such comments are discouraging.

But Dr. McKenzie's life increases my faith that God will work divinely in my life and if it is to include a husband and children, then it will happen.

A Dynamic Speaker & Author

Utilizing her media experience, Vashti developed a dynamic preaching style which has raised the preaching standard for male and female clergy internationally. her sermons are well-prepared, researched, humorous, and always applicable to daily life. Dr. McKenzie's effective preaching and social involvement in transforming communities caused Ebony magazine to recognize her as an influential African-American woman, honoring her as one of the "15 Greatest African-American Female Preachers." Bishop McKenzie has published two books, Not Without Struggle (1996) and Strength in the Struggle (2000). 

Within the pages of her debut book, there are gems of information that will assist especially in the development of female clerical leadership. Her "Ten Commandments for African-American Clergywomen" and "Ten Womanist Commandments for Clergy" are exceedingly helpful. Although the titles specify race and gender, these words of wisdom are applicable to all clergy despite cultural origin and gender.

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 Ten Commandments for African American Clergywomen

1. Thou shall be prepared.

2. Thou shall be a team player.

3. Thou shall network

4. Thou shall be accountable.

5. Thou shall empower others.

6. Thou shall use sound management principles and techniques.

7. Thou shall be committed to the servant leadership style of management, exemplified by Jesus Christ.

8. Thou shall pursue continuing education and personal development in order to provide quality leadership.

9. Thou shall develop, pursue, and establish a Bible-centered ethics and ethos in all areas of ministry.

10. Thou shall be accessible to Christ and to those you are called to serve..

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 Ten Womanist Commandments for Clergy

1. Thou shall not compromise your femininity for the sake of the pulpit.

2. Thou shall not be intimidated by those who question your call and your right to be a woman and a minister.

3. Thou shall be wise in establishing personal relationships within the congregation.

4. Thou shall not be a superwoman.

5. Thou shall be a sister to your sister in the ministry.

6. Thou shall have African American men as brothers.

7. Be assertive, fair, and firm.

8. Thou shall not oppress others.

9. Thou shall be a role model.

10. Thou shall not take thyself too seriously.

These common sense rules can be applied by all clergy, whether male or female. Intrigued by Dr. McKenzie's accomplishments, I questioned the members and clergy of Payne Memorial and they all said that she was indeed a team player. At Payne Memorial, she focused on specific goals, utilizing the resources of God gives her -- laity, family, city officials, etc. As I read these "Commandments," I realize that they reflect the words her members and clergy spoke.

I too consider myself a womanist, which is femininity plus. it is important for African-American women to acknowledge and celebrate their femininity. But that is not sufficient. We have that and much more to offer the world. During an interview after her election, Dr. McKenzie explained her view on this topic. "Instead of placing my gender in front of me, I'll place who I am and what I do, and who I serve in front of me. . . . They know I'm a woman when I walk in the door. So what. I've been one all my life. Get over it." The "getting over it" is a going beyond that, a seizing of new territory in being a witness for God.

Men are not the only ones that can be upfront doing God's work. And we don't need to be an imitation of them to achieve God's victories. to hide or take on masculine attributes to be accepted by peers and congregations is a compromise to God's call. One can not help or validate others until self-validation  is constituted. "Thou shall not be intimidated . . . " is Vashti's second commandment. intimidation stunts growth through elements of fear and self-doubt and has been a weapon against female preachers for centuries. to complete God-given assignments fear of others cannot be a consideration. One's call will be questioned at some point, but assurance comes with believing that God has appointed you.

It is important that women do a personal exegesis of especially those texts that are often used against women in ministry. Some choose to ignore and disregard Paul's texts which have been interpreted as a denouncement of women in church leadership. Such avoidance leave women clergy unprepared for opposition and could be a fatal blow to self-esteem which ultimately undermines an effective ministry.

The next three commandments concern church relationships, successful leadership, and developing personal relationships. All three are important and imperative. unmarried clergy should avoid dating members of the congregation and members that would rather have the pastor as a girlfriend than a leader. One should also avoid the Superwoman syndrome, the belief that one can do everything oneself. such an attitude hinders church growth and such a leader will ultimately suffer from burnout and will not be effective. delegating leadership and duties is necessary. members also have a need to utilize their skills.

Building relationships with fellow clergy can guard against such behavior. being a sister to sisters in ministry builds a support system which encourages and enables one to encourage others. because there is strength in unity, brothers must be included. Women must realize that every man is not against female clergy. Forming alliances with male clergy creates more unity within the body of Christ, which yields more power to do the things God requires. Following these commandments as well as the others will change the face of ministry. The change will begin with the individual and become evident through action. Vashti's commandments change the world from the inside outward.

Dr. Vashti McKenzie's election as bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church reminds us how far women have come in ministry and at the same time the distance we have yet to go. Her election makes me hopeful that changes will take place among those who still believe women are ill equipped for leadership in the ministry. Dr. McKenzie's rise to bishop has had a great ecumenical impact. Her work in community development in Baltimore, Maryland, reminds all that ministry is about service and the transformation of lives. 

Her tenure on an international level in Lesotho, Africa, will provide her an opportunity to create programs to help the uneducated, unemployed, and those suffering from AIDS. Vashti McKenzie is clearly a model example of clergy operating out a theology of obligation and liberation, while simultaneously encouraging others to pursue ministry with passion and courage.


Minister Jennifer Nicole McGill  now serves as an Associate Minister at Wayland Baptist Church, preaching the Gospel, teaching the Word, and serving as Spiritual Advisor to Wayland's Women's Ministry are some of Minister McGill's current responsibilities. Her assistance in Church Ministry is also exercised in Richmond, VA, where she teaches Sunday School and assists in Sunday worship at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

For Minister Jennifer McGill, home is where the heart is. Home is Baltimore, Maryland, where she was educated in Catholic and Public School systems. Minister McGill attended Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, in Baltimore, Maryland, and continued higher education at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Arts in Teaching degrees. This vessel of God has traveled south on Interstate 95 to pursue her Master of Divinity at Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education.

She hopes to one day research the relationship between art and religion in doctoral studies. Minister McGill believes that study is useless until it is applied. Her plan is to use art, scripture, service, and love to help broken people piece their lives together and be liberated in and through Christ Jesus. "If I can help somebody establish a relationship with God then my living is not in vain."

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.

Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. Jamie Byng, Guardian

 Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)  / Gil Scott-Heron & His Music  Gil Scott Heron Blue Collar  Remember Gil Scott- Heron

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Forged: Writing in the Name of God

Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

By Bart D. Ehrman

The evocative title tells it all and hints at the tone of sensationalism that pervades this book. Those familiar with the earlier work of Ehrman, a distinguished professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and author of more than 20 books including Misquoting Jesus, will not be surprised at the content of this one. Written in a manner accessible to nonspecialists, Ehrman argues that many books of the New Testament are not simply written by people other than the ones to whom they are attributed, but that they are deliberate forgeries. The word itself connotes scandal and crime, and it appears on nearly every page. Indeed, this book takes on an idea widely accepted by biblical scholars: that writing in someone else's name was common practice and perfectly okay in ancient times. Ehrman argues that it was not even then considered acceptable—hence, a forgery.

While many readers may wish for more evidence of the charge, Ehrman's introduction to the arguments and debates among different religious communities during the first few centuries and among the early Christians themselves, though not the book's main point, is especially valuable.—Publishers Weekly  / Forged Bart Ehrman’s New Salvo (Witherington)

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

 We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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update 27 May 2012




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