Guest Blogger: What’s My Place? Seeking Ordination in the PCUSA as a Black Woman

Note from Jan:  While on vacation, I’ve invited Denise Anderson to post this article she initially wrote for NCP Monthly.  These are questions I hear often:  Where do I fit in?  Is there a call for someone like me?  Please also check out Denise’s blog:

172A friend of mine recently posed a Black History Month challenge with the following question, “What will be your place in Black history?”

As I look forward to final assessment this weekend – the culmination of years of Divinity school, exams, papers, write‐ups, and supervised ministry experience – I often wonder what my own place in Black history will be. More specifically, I wonder what my place in Black and PC(USA) history will be. What will my experience look like as an
African‐American and female Teaching Elder in this denomination? What will I aim to accomplish as a member of such a small club?

Our denomination, for all its efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, still counts only 206 African‐American women among its 13,109 active ordained clergy. In case you’re keeping count that means less than 1.6% of our
clergy are Black women. The potential exists for someone like me to, quite literally, make history. There are still too few areas in this denomination in which people like me have made inroads. I can very well be one of many who
help this process of inclusion along. But how?

As I look back on my ordination‐seeking experience, from applying for enrollment as an Inquirer to preparing for final assessment, I regret that not once did I stop to consider what I wanted to do with such a unique opportunity.
What mark do I want to make as a Black woman in the PC(USA)? How will I clear the path for other Black women to seek ordination here? Will my voice add to the others in such a way that we are all convinced that more voices like
ours should be heard?

I certainly hope it does. And I certainly hope that part of the mark I make here leads to the ordination of many, many more African‐American women. I’d like to see us pursue this much more aggressively. I didn’t go to a Presbyterian seminary. I went to Howard – a Divinity School with no denominational affiliation. As such, I saw the United Methodist Church, the UCC, The Air Force Chaplain Candidate Program, and a number of other denominations and religious organizations get in front of these students and present them with viable avenues for ministry. Do you know how many Presbyterians I saw doing the same? None.

Not that I didn’t have wonderful Presbyterian instructors who to this day are mentors, but, in all honesty, their denomination did not step up the way they did. What a goldmine we should consider that to be if we truly want more African‐Americans to seek ordination with us!

In many ways, I hope to follow in the footsteps of Katie Geneva Cannon, Margaret Aymer, and Floretta Watkins. Looking outside of the PC(USA), I hope to continue the legacy of Jarena Lee, Ida B. Robinson, and Carolyn Ann
Knight. But, hopefully and prayerfully, I can go where they haven’t. Wherever I find myself in Black/Women’s/PC(USA) history, I hope what I see behind me are some busted walls, cleared‐out forests, and trampled brush, clearing a path for more ministers with a similar witness to come forth.

And, most of all, I hope the Black‐woman‐in‐training I’m raising sees all of it and determines in her own heart to do the same.

Denise is a Candidate in the National Capital Presbytery under the care of Prince George’s Community Presbyterian Church. She currently serves as a Pastoral Assistant at Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Derwood, Maryland where she
leads the English-language Ministry.


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