We Congratulate the UCC Denomination’s First Woman President
(Posted July 11, 2023)
The General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UCC) made history Monday, July 3, when it elected Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson (photo, right) as the first woman, and the first Black woman, to lead the denomination as General Minister and President.
The General Minister and President oversees critical and varied aspects of UCC leadership, including staffing and operations at the National Setting, financial oversight, public theological communication, issue advocacy, and long-term visioning and strategic planning for the Church.
Rev. Dr. Pat Kriss, (photo, below left) pastor for the past 11 years of First Congregational Church Danbury, rejoiced at the naming of Rev. Thompson as the United Church of Christ's new national president.
"Our Congregational faith has a long-standing reputation for its acceptance of all people into the family of Christ at a time when other churches practice rejection,” she wrote.
“We ordained the first African American minister, Rev. Lemuel Haynes of Hartford, in 1785. He served a Vermont church for over 30 years. We ordained the first woman minister, Rev. Antoinette Brown Blackwell, in 1851. She became nationally known for her work in equality.
“However,” she added, “it was not until this year that our denomination would call a woman, Reverend Thompson, to guide the UCC as its top leader. I am proud to be part of a denomination that recognizes the brilliance of leaders based on the depth of their wisdom."
A Jamaican immigrant, Thompson is the third person of African descent to serve as leader of the denomination. She is also the third woman nominated for the post, after the Revs. Yvonne Delk (in 1989) and Barbara Brown Zikmund (in 1999).
“As I stand here before you as your newly and duly elected General Minister and President,” Thompson said in an address to the General Synod following her election, “I stand here as a Jamaican immigrant woman, a mother and a grandmother, a sister and a friend to many … The enormity of this moment will be with me for many years to come.”
She also thanked Reverends Delk and Brown Zikmund, stating that they “kicked in the doors,” paving the way for her election.
What’s Next for the UCC
In her nomination speech to General Synod on June 30, Rev. Thompson spoke about the hope she sees springing forth within the United Church of Christ.
“Here is the place where we have seen the Spirit of God poured forth among us in many ways. Here is the place where we continue to identify the many accomplishments of the ancestors. Here is where we honor the resilience of those who came before us, took risk and oftentimes did more with less than we currently have. And here is the place we identify as now, as we ponder the call of God to be salt and light to the world.”
Portions of this article were taken from a July 3, 2023, UCC press release.