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AME church makes history

The AME church in Bermuda is making history this weekend as the denomination's annual conference is presided over by not one, but two women.

Presiding Elder, Rev Betty Furbert-Woolridge will host her second annual Bermuda conference. She is being joined by fellow church leader, Bishop Carolyn Tyler Guidry, presiding prelate of the Eighth Episcopal District.

Bishop Guidry is no stranger to Bermuda, having visited several times in the past she and her husband Donald Guidry even honeymooned here in 1996.

However, it is the first time a female bishop has presided over the AME church's annual conference in Bermuda.

Bermuda does not normally come under Bishop Guidry's jurisdiction; her district covers her home state of Mississippi, and Louisiana. Bermuda falls under the First Episcopal District of the AME Church, which is led by Bishop Richard Norris.

“I was asked to preside by Bishop Norris,” Bishop Guidry explained. Bishop Norris was unable to attend this year due to health concerns.

Bishop Guidry has been a trailblazer for woman in the AME church.

She has been serving in ministry since 1973.

Four years later, in 1977, she became the first female itinerant pastor to be ordained in the Indio, California area in more than 50 years.

In 1989 she became the first female pastor appointed over a major metropolitan congregation at Walker Temple AME, a 600-member church in Los Angeles.

Then, in 2004, after she earned her master's degree in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, she was appointed the second female bishop in AME church history.

Some may question whether a woman can or should serve in such a capacity, especially in light of the St Paul's 1 Timothy and Titus epistles, however, Bishop Guidry believes that women do have the right to teach and serve in a leadership capacity within the church.

“When I was in Bible school, and then in seminary, we were taught to interpret scripture by the times and traditions. These have changed,” she said.

“The scriptures also teach that in Christ, there is neither male nor female” and therefore, there should be equality of men and women at even the highest levels of church authority.

The purpose of the AME church's annual conference is mostly to serve as a time for different churches within the conference to give their annual reports on the ministry, as well as to make sure church policies are being followed and to generally encourage the congregations as they look forward to a new year of ministry.

“At every annual conference, we want to celebrate the accomplishments of the year past, but also assess where we need to go in the future,” Bishop Guidry added.

The conference began on Thursday and ends tomorrow.

While much of the time was taken up with business meetings, several worship services were also be incorporated into the event.

A special ordination service will be held at St Paul's in Hamilton today. A closing worship service is scheduled at the Fairmont Southampton at 3pm tomorrow. Bishop Guidry will preach at that event.

“I'm really pleased that Rev Guidry is here with us for the annual conference,” said Rev Furbert-Woolridge. “She's been a support for me through the years.”

Bishop Carolyn Tyler Guidry

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Published March 10, 2012 at 7:00 am (Updated March 10, 2012 at 7:36 am)

AME church makes history

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