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United Methodist Bishop Firsts

U.S. Ethnic Minorities

  • The first Asian-American to be elected bishop was Wilbur Choy (Chinese-American) in 1972. He served in the Seattle and San Francisco Episcopal Areas before retirement.
  • The first African-American bishop prior to the union was Francis Burns, elected in 1858 and assigned to Liberia.
  • The first African-American bishops to serve in the United States were Robert E. Jones and Matthew W. Clair Sr., elected in 1920.
  • The first African-American bishop to serve as president of the Council of Bishops was Prince Taylor. Bishop Taylor served as the president in 1965-1966.
  • The first African-American bishop elected to the church after the 1968 union of The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren Church was Roy Nichols. Bishop Nichols served in the Pittsburgh and New York Episcopal Areas before retirement.
  • The first African-American woman bishop was Leontine T.C. Kelly, elected in 1984.
  • The first Hispanic-American to be elected was Elias Galvan in 1984. 
  • Bishop Elias Galvan was the first Hispanic ever to serve as president of the Council of Bishops (in 2001).
  • The first Japanese-American to be elected was Roy Sano in 1984.
  • The first Korean-American to be elected was Hae Jong Kim in 1992. 

Women

  • The first woman to be elected was Marjorie Matthews in 1980. She served the Wisconsin Episcopal Area before retirement.
  • The first African-American woman bishop was Leontine T.C. Kelly, elected in 1984.
  • The first Latina bishop was Minerva Carcaño, elected in 2004.
  • Rosemarie Wenner was the first woman bishop to be elected in the Central Conferences.  She was elected bishop of the Germany Central Conference in 2005.
  • Joaquina Filipe Nhanala was the first woman bishop to be elected in Africa.  She was elected bishop of the Mozambique Central Conference in 2008. Read about her election. 

Worldwide

  • Bishop Emilio de Carvalho (Angola) was the longest serving bishop in the United Methodist Church. He was an active bishop from 1972 to 2000.
  • Bishop de Carvalho was also the first African bishop to serve as President of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, from 1991 to 1992.
  • Maputo, Mozambique, was the site of the first Council of Bishops meeting outside the United States, November 1-6, 2006.