Karen Georgia Thompson, a Black woman with short salt and pepper hair in a white hoodie.
Photo courtesy of the United Church of Christ.

The United Church of Christ will have its first Black woman as General Minister

In a vote that garnered over 60% of the UCC’s Synod votes, Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson has been elected General Minister and President.


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Today on July 3, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UCC) officially elected Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson to lead the denomination as General Minister and President, becoming the first woman and the first Black woman to hold the office.

Founded in 1957, the UCC has grown to include more than 770,000 members with over 4,700 congregations nationwide.

“Today, United Church of Christ, we created a first together,” Thompson said after the vote. “It won’t be the last first."

Earlier this year in March, Thompson had been nominated for the position, making her the third woman to be nominated following Revs. Yvonne Delk in 1989, and Barbara Brown Zikmund in 1999.

The election, which was held during the UCC's 34th General Synod in Indianapolis, which began June 30 and will officially end July 4. She required 60% of the votes to be elected.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Thompson immigrated to New York City as a teenager, pursuing her bachelor's degree in English and Secondary Education at Brooklyn College. 

She would later earn a Master of Public Administration from North Carolina Central University and a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York, and her Doctorate in Ministry from Seattle University.

“As I stand here before you as your newly and duly elected General Minister and President, I stand here as a Jamaican immigrant woman, a mother and a grandmother, a sister and a friend to many,” Thompson said. “The enormity of this moment will be with me for many years to come.”

Since 2019, Thompson has served as Associate General Minister for Wider Church Ministries, and Co-Executive for Global Ministries. Since 2009, she has served in the National Setting for the UCC, previously acting as minister for racial justice, and ecumenical and interfaith relations.

Prior to her position on the National Setting, Thompson served within the UCC's Florida Conference, working as a church planter in Florida and in family ministries in New York.

Thompson will begin the new role as General Minister and President on August 1 as her predecessor, Rev. John Dorhauer, departs following an eight-year tenure.

In a speech to the UCC Board prior to her nomination, Thompson spoke on the necessity of dismantling systems of oppression so that communities and congregations worldwide can live and thrive.

“Decolonizing the church on all levels has to be a priority,” she said. “Decolonizing the church includes our commitment to racial justice and more. Being antiracist and inclusive requires that we decolonize our institutions in ways that afford all to be present and participate equally. This is a commitment to equity for all.”

The UCC Board will name an interim Associate General Minister who will serve in Thompson's previous position until the next General Synod in 2025.


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