Three Female Bishops in Alabama Shepherd over 200,000 Souls

There are at least five American denominations governed by bishops that ordain women to that office: the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. The bishops of three of those denominations who oversee the northern section of Alabama are women. And all of these bishops’ offices are in Birmingham.

On Saturday, the Right Reverend Glenda Sharp Curry was invested as the twelfth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama. She joins Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the United Methodist Church in providing episcopal oversight from Birmingham. Given that the AME only has two women currently serving as bishops and the CME, one, I doubt that there is another city in the country with more women as among the chief pastors of these denominations.

All told the three women bishops shepherd approximately 200,000 individuals in Alabama. Each denomination divides the state and counts its membership differently. The North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church includes Birmingham and Huntsville, but not Montgomery. It reported 127,705 professing members in 2018, this does not include baptized children who have not been confirmed. The Diocese of Alabama of the Episcopal Church stretches from the the Tennessee line as far south as Auburn. It reported 31,529 baptized members in 2019. This includes children. The Fifth District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church includes all of Alabama along with some of Florida. The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies reported that the membership of the CME church in Alabama was 27,620 in 2010.

Jefferson-Snorton has served the CME in Alabama since 2011, Wallace-Padgett has headed United Methodists in North Alabama since 2012. Her replacement is due to be chosen November.

Alabama is known as a conservative state. Its largest denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, does not permit women to be the senior pastors of congregations. But the citizens of the state have twice elected a woman as their governor (1966 and 2018). The long tenure of Jefferson-Snorton and Wallace-Padgett and the recent election of Curry suggest that many of its citizens are also happy to have women heading their churches.

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