Bishop Vashti McKenzie

The Rev. Vashti M. McKenzie in 2000

The Rev. Vashti M. McKenzie (right) speaks on July 11, 2000, in Cincinnati after she was elected the first female bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Tom Uhlman/Newsmakers hide caption

itoggle caption Tom Uhlman/Newsmakers

It took 200 years for the African Methodist Episcopal Church to elect a woman bishop. In 2000, Vashti McKenzie finally broke through what she called the church's stained-glass ceiling.

Raised in Baltimore, McKenzie's great grandfather founded the city's black newspaper, The Afro-American, in 1892. At the start of her career, she followed in his footsteps.

The Arizona Republic first hired McKenzie as a beat reporter; she then transitioned to broadcast journalism, hosting her own radio and television programs. But, despite her accomplishments, McKenzie says she felt that she was called by God to do other things. So she walked away from journalism in midlife and enrolled in Howard University's Divinity School.

After earning her doctor of ministry degree from Union Theological Seminary, McKenzie set her sights on a leadership role within the AME Church. Farai Chideya speaks with McKenzie about her career.



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