They brought a spiritual balance to religion
Yussuf J. Simmonds
These women brought a balance to the natural order of things in creation. Since it takes two to procreate, any ideal that is male dominated defies nature. Having women involved in any human endeavor or undertaking only adds to its validity.
BISHOP CAROLYN TYLER-GUIDRY
As the second female bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Bishop Carolyn Tyler-Guidry was the first female appointed to be a presiding elder in the Fifth Episcopal District which includes California. She started Bible School in Los Angeles in 1977, followed by her pastor-ship of the First AME Church in Indio, California. After instituting some creative programs there, Tyler-Guidry moved on to pastor another church, Cain Memorial AME Church in Bakersfield, where she remained for five years.
Coming to Los Angeles in 1989, Tyler-Guidry was appointed to pastor the Walker Temple AME Church, a major metropolitan church with about 600 members. Her performance was so extraordinary that five years later, she became the first female appointed to presiding elder in the Fifth Episcopal District – a milestone.
Throughout the years that she pastored the above-mentioned churches, Tyler-Guidry used the skills she had acquired in Business and Secretarial Science at J.P. Campbell College in Jackson, Mississippi, her hometown, where she earned her AA degree and she later studied economics at Tougaloo College, a liberal arts institution also in Jackson, Mississippi. She had also worked for the NAACP and chaired the women’s voter registration in Jackson. In addition, Tyler-Guidry’s 12 years at Security Pacific Bank in California added to her wealth of experience that she used skillfully during her various stints as pastor.
Tyler-Guidry went on to become the second female bishop elected in the A.M.E. Church in July 2004 about the same time she received her master’s of theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. With her election as a bishop, she is designated one of the AME’s Episcopal district worldwide; her first district was the 16th Episcopal district which consisted of Cuba; the Dominican Republic; Haiti; Jamaica; London, England; Suriname, Guyana; the Virgin Islands; and the Windward Islands.
At the 48th Quadrennial Session of the AME General Conference in July 2008, Tyler-Guidry presided over the Business Session XIV. One of the items on the agenda during the sessions, held every four years, is the assignments of the bishops to the various AME districts worldwide. After the 16th district, the Right Reverend (her official title) Carolyn Tyler-Guidry was assigned as the presiding prelate of the 8th district. That district included Louisiana and Mississippi, her home state and she stated that she was pleased to extend greetings to all who visit this site and I must say that I am truly excited to have the opportunity to serve as the Presiding Prelate of the Eighth Episcopal District for this 2008- 2012 Quadrennial.
Despite the rigorous schedule her administrative and pastoral duties as a presiding prelate entailed, Tyler-Guidry always found the time to conduct invocations, served on numerous boards and other community activities outside of the church. And though her official duties often make her relocate to different districts within the AME church structure, Tyler-Guidry calls Southern California her home. She is the mother of six children and the grandmother of twelve.
BISHOP VASHTI MCKENZIE
When Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, the first woman to be elected bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, was speaking to a graduate class at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, she said, “You have been prepared to be critical thinkers … open your eyes and seek new ideas … find new ways to explore new spiritual frontiers.”
McKenzie was born in Baltimore, Maryland, May 1947 to Ida Murphy Smith and Samuel Edward Smith. After attending high school as one of six Black students at Eastern High School, she went on to Blair School of Journalism for a brief period before enrolling at Morgan State University (MSU) where she majored in history. McKenzie then earned her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland, College Park and began working for her family newspaper, the “Afro- American.” There, she wrote her own column, “The McKenzie Report.”
While attending MSU, she met her future husband, Stan McKenzie of the Baltimore Bullets basketball team and later, the Phoenix Suns, Arizona. In Arizona, she worked for the “Arizona Republic” newspaper, and after returning to Baltimore, McKenzie transitioned to radio and television journalism hosting gospel programs on local radio stations. She also served as vice-president of programming at WJZ-TV station.
McKenzie finally walked away from journalism and enrolled at Howard University’s Divinity School in Washington, D.C. where she earned a Master’s degree followed by a Doctor of Ministry degree from Union Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. In 1984, she was ordained a deacon and the following year, the pastor of Oak Street AME church in Baltimore. Being first has become commonplace for McKenzie. She was the first woman to pastor the Payne Memorial AME church in Baltimore, Maryland prior to becoming the first woman to be elected bishop in the 213-year history of the church in 2000 and also the first woman bishop to preside over the council of bishops, the governing body of the AME church.
During her tenure at Payne, McKenzie secured funds for a welfare-to-work program with the State of Maryland where approximately 600 men and women were educated, trained and placed in jobs, leaving the welfare system. In addition, she led the church to purchase a building and turned it into an economic development complex, with a senior-citizen center, a Headstart program and several other businesses. McKenzie was also active in organizing the Collective Banking Group of Baltimore, the Church Health Alliance and was president of the AME Ministerial Alliance.
Her first assignment as bishop placed her over the Eighteenth Episcopal District, which included Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa. There McKenzie embarked on a vigorous campaign to strengthen the district’s infra-structure. She instituted an ambitious agenda creating computer labs, entrepreneurial projects, educational workshops for teachers, new classrooms and an increase in schools supplies, giving life and vigor to the school students.
After serving in Southern Africa, McKenzie moved to the Thirteenth Episcopal District covering Kentucky and Tennessee. She has authored several books including “Not Without Struggle” (1996) and “Strength in the Struggle.” (2006).
Bishop Vashti and Stan McKenzie are the parents of three children: Jon-Mikael, Jasmine and Joi-Marie.Â
MINISTER AVA MUHAMMAD
When Minister Ava Muhammad was appointed as the National Spokes-person for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan that was a historic occasion and later on when he also appointed her to head a mosque that was doubly historic – historic with a capital ‘H’. He has referred to her as “one of the most profound teachers of Islam in North America.” Not only does she represent Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam in religious and spiritual matters, Muhammad also represents them in legal matters; she is a practicing attorney.
When Farrakhan appointed Muhammad to head Mosque No. 15 in Atlanta, and as Southern Regional Representative of the Nation of Islam, she said: “It is my fervent prayer that I succeed in my assignment, in order to help the Minister in his effort to destroy the myth that women are inferior beings who cannot preach the word or shepherd the flock. Through my appointment, Min. Farrakhan is manifesting the liberating force and power contained in the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.”
An eloquent speaker, a gifted researcher and a prolific writer, Muhammad has authored numerous books including “The Force and Power of Being,” “Queen of the Planet Earth: The Rebirth and Rise of the Original Woman,” “Real Love” and “A New Unit of Measurement.” She is described as an attorney, author and theologian. The focus of her work is self-empowerment and she has been featured in Essence Magazine and is a frequent participant in the Essence Music Festival Empowerment Seminars.
During the Nation of Islam’s annual Saviour’s Day, Muhammad sometimes conducts workshops/seminars in addition, she is in great demand at churches, conferences, colleges and universities. Topics that she has addressed include:
â€¢ Reparations for Blacks: Who is Able to Prosecute This Case?”
â€¢ “The Role and Responsibility of Women in the Advancement of Society”
â€¢ “The Current State of Black America: How Will It Affect the Future of this Country?”
â€¢ “The Effect of the Media on the Minds of the American People”
â€¢ “The Role of the Woman in Islam”
Despite demands as a lecturer (speaking), minister (teaching) and author (writing), Muhammad still finds the time to maintain her legal practice. She received her law degree from Georgetown University School of Law, Washington, D.C. and is a member of the New York Bar Association.
In 1986, when the president placed a ban on American travel to Libya in 1986, Muhammad became involved as attorney for Farrakhan after he visited that country and news of a possible arrest surfaced. She also went after the New York Post newspaper when it printed disparaging comments against Farrakhan relative to the death of Minister Malcolm X; the incident triggered a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper. Ironically, Muhammad stands on the shoulders of both Malcolm X and Farrakhan as the national spokes-person of the Nation of Islam.
Muhammad is a member of the Muslim Girls Training (MGT) and is married to Darius Muhammad also of the Nation of Islam.
PASTOR DR. BEVERLY “BAM” CRAWFORD
As pastor and founder of Bam Crawford Ministries (BCM), Pastor Beverly “Bam” Crawford has spent over 30 years pursuing Biblical studies and teaching. As senior pastor of Bible Enrichment Fellowship International in Inglewood, California, she delivers powerful life-changing messages cultivating hope and releasing the power to change, as a highly sought-after speaker, teacher and religious leader. She delivers her messages via Bam Crawford World Media Outreach and can be heard via her radio and television ministries, “The Trumpet Voice” and “Turn It Around,” in addition to her website, her tapes, CDs, videos, music albums, seminars and conferences.
According to Crawford’s website, visitors can partake from the following menu of options: The Vision; News & Events; First Time Visitors; Daily Devotional; Online Giving; Newsletter and Youth-Frontline Soldiers. A prolific author, her website complements her latest books: “The Power of The Soul – Part I, and Restoration of The Damaged Soul – Part II,” both virtual manual designed to inspire, provoke and require the renewed mind to re-build back lives to complete wholeness.
Crawford displays a set of resources as a part of her outreach that deals with several relevant, community issues including HIV/AIDS Caring Community; Compassion In Action;
Vision of Life and Prison Advocacy; some of the outreach services overlap each other.
Vision of Life was developed to provide support for families affected or infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. We want to be a source of education, awareness and meet the growing needs of this community. AIDS is rampant in the community and as the life-threatening stage of the HIV disease, it is the diagnosis given to someone whose immune system has become so damaged that certain diseases (opportunistic infections) or cancers can develop. Crawford’s community outreach is but another tool in the vast network of spiritual, emotional and medical needs that are making a small, yet significant dent, for those with little hope.
The Prison Advocacy of BCM assists ex-offenders and their families, by providing a place of confidentiality, where individuals can speak openly about the issues affecting their lives. The vast number of people incarcerated in American jails and prisons create fertile soil for Crawford’s prison ministry program; the prison population has doubled in the last decade. She has sent teams into Los Padrinos, CIW (California Institute for Women), Camp Miller, Camp Kilpatrick, Camp Rocke, and Twin Towers, downtown Los Angeles.
L.A.M.P.S. (Leaders Apostolic Maturing & Mentoring Prophetic Servants/Seminars) is another one of Crawford’s BCM programs and its purpose is to provide guidance, information, instruction, and fellowship for ministers and family members. According to information on the program, L.A.M.P.S. furnishes warmth and light for ministers who face challenging personal, family and marital situations and it promotes a kingdom lifestyle through renewed minds of Christ-likeness.
The BCM facility have a full service of community outreach programs and community development to promote social and economic change designed to benefit youth, senior citizens and small businesses.
Pastor Crawford has three children, and ten grand and God grandchildren.
PASTOR SHIRLEY CAESAR
Though she is well known as a gospel singer, when Shirley Caesar, the singer, decided to become Pastor Shirley Caesar, she returned to her birthplace, North Carolina, where she presently pastors a 1500-seat church in Raleigh. As a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Caesar has said that she never dreamed the Lord would bring her ministry to where it is and cites her mother as a strong influence in her decision to give so selflessly of herself. She donates a sizeable portion of all concert sales to her Outreach Ministries and annual conferences, and delivers weekly sermons wherever she happens to be especially on the Sabbath.
Growing up in North Carolina during the Jim-Crow era, gave Caesar a sense of positive self worth even though she went to school ” when White kids got things better,” including schools, books and teachers, and restaurants putting up their “closed” signs when she would arrive. Her mother taught her to respect herself and to persevere, and she did.
After attending North Carolina Central College where she studied business education, Caesar said, she got the call to God’s work and believed it was a message for her to spread the gospel. Around the same time, she heard Chicago’s female gospel group, the Caravans, one of the most popular gospel groups at that time, and saw an opportunity to answer the call. Caesar sought an audition with the group, was immediately hired, and left school for a life of singing and ministering the gospel.
Her career as a gospel singer was the foundation for her eventual pursuit in the pulpit of Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church which she co-pastors with her husband and where she often gives her congregation the ‘gospel word’ accompanied by ‘gospel music’. She also conducts seminars and training for church leaders as a part of her pastoral duties in addition, her Sunday morning services become extravaganzas with Caesar as the officiating minister.
After decades in music and the ministry, Caesar’s method of pasturing has become a unique tradition that has been described as a ‘sermonette’ of historic proportions where she spews the gospel with ‘fire and brimstone’ to floor-stomping and hand-clapping cadences of a mistress of the word. According to one of her congregation, “Her exhortative qualities is pure gospel heaven for traditionalist devotees of the genre – a vocal showstopper and rock-solid performance that demonstrates that her celebrated ‘pipes’ have not diminished one iota.” Caesar is still a great Biblical storyteller and a much sought after Evangelist and psalmist.
Pastor Caesar has been married to her husband, Bishop Harold Williams for 27 years.
REV. DELLA REESE
After Rev. Della Reese finished one of her gospel musical CDs, she said in part, … “I see Gospel Music and the profoundness of both its lyrical and emotional content as being able to and worthy of standing on its own. I Thank God that He has blessed me with the resources and the producer/arranger (TC Campbell), who saw it and felt about it as I do. This CD is a love project I offer it for all of its attributes, its musical arrangements, its magnificent emotional value, and its dynamic lyrics of truth.”
As the co-founder of Spiritual Icon Records, Reese began singing in church when she was six years old and at 13, she was hired by the late Mahalia Jackson to sing with her group. Later, while majoring in psychology at Wayne State University, in Detroit, Reese formed her own female gospel group, “The Meditation Singers”, which is listed in the “Who’s Who of Gospel Music”.
Reese was ordained as a minister by the Universal Foundation for Better Living (UFBL), an organization of twenty-two member churches and study groups worldwide. Affectionately called Rev. Della, she took the message from UFBL and founded Understanding Principles for Better Living Church (UPBLC) in Los Angeles, California. Her lesson/sermons, based upon the teachings of Jesus Christ, give all who are seeking practical ways to learn and apply the Principles that, if put into practice, will allow them to have a better life.
Since the 1950s, Resse has been a fixture in the entertainment world: movies, television, concerts and recordings with an equal amount of success in each genre. She was the first female to host “The Tonight Show” and to host her own talk show, “Della”, (making her the first Black woman to host her own show); it was nationally in 1969-70.
In her role as a reverend, Reese is as fastidious as she has been in other areas of her multi-faceted career. She is a Doctoral Degree Graduate Of the University of Metaphysics and was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to the Spirituality Of The Planet by conducting her own ministry of many years, while also contributing through such inspirational roles as In “Touched By An Angel “.
Reese complements her spiritual duties with many different outreach programs. She penned her autobiography, “Angels Along the Way” in 1997 to great reviews and also did a children’s book, “The God Inside Of Me”, one of the best-selling children’s books in 1999. In addition, she has her own fashion line on The Home Shopping Network._ As an ordained minister, Reese gives excellent ‘Life Lessons’ every Sunday to a capacity audience and her church can be found on the Internet as ‘upchurch.org’ , a non-denominational, multi-racial gathering studying and living by the teachings of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
In her ministerial work, she is known as Rev. Dr. Della Reese-Lett; she is married to Franklin Lett.