By Madison Lozano
Killeen Daily Herald
Anderson Chapel welcomed Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie to Killeen on Monday to host the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s annual Central Texas conference, which concludes Sunday.
McKenzie’s journey began as a “church child,” attending Sunday services in the arms of her parents, leading to roles as preacher, pastor and finally bishop in 2000, she said.
This path is “the call to preach … you answer that call and submit yourself to the training,” McKenzie said.
As pastor of Payne Memorial A.M.E. Church, in her hometown of Baltimore, Md., McKenzie grew the congregation from 300 members to more than 1,700, increasing the property value and budget from the thousands to the millions.
Prior to coming to Dallas, the headquarters of A.M.E. in Texas, McKenzie served in Tennessee, Kentucky and Africa.
Perhaps most significant historically is the fact that McKenzie is the first woman to serve as bishop in the episcopacy in the history of the denomination.
She is the 117th elected bishop of the A.M.E. church, and there have since been two other women elected to serve as bishops, McKenzie said. The second is now retired, leaving two active female bishops.
“The A.M.E. church is one of the leading African-American church bodies to open the door for women to lead,” said Dr. William M. Campbell Jr., senior pastor of Anderson Chapel.
“The son of the second
female bishop is our conference preacher,” he said, “and the third female bishop was elected globally from the state of Texas.”
“There are women now serving at every possible level of the church,” McKenzie said.
She stressed that women have always been there, but the denomination is seeing the highest number of women serving in all positions today.
“If you look at major seminaries across the U.S., the majority of students are women,” McKenzie said.
The annual conference is held to maintain accountability of each church in the region and to share the types of ministries and evangelistic activities they have done in the past year, McKenzie said. Preachers are ordained and assigned to pulpits during this time as well.
“We are elated to have our bishop visit with us and to allow us to host the annual conference here,” Campbell said. “Her presence is an affirmation of the work of ministry and mission that is carried out in this local church.”
Most rewarding for the bishop is to witness the transformation that takes place in the people, congregations and communities she serves.
“Anderson Chapel has a vibrant outreach ministry and an excellent worship model that ministers to diverse ages,” she said. “Watching what happens to the community when a valuable ministry is in place is most enjoyable.”
Her position allows her to visit each of the more than 160 churches in her region, which stretches across Central Texas.
“The goal is to see people where they live, work and worship,” McKenzie said, in order to give her a better sense of the needs of the people and develop a ministry strategy designed specifically for each community.
Anderson Chapel is grateful for the “opportunity to share kindness and hospitality and glorify God through service to our brothers and sisters (in the 59 other congregations),” Campbell said.