In 1975, the United Church of Christ honored two clergywomen with the first Antoinette Brown Award, celebrating the life and ministry of the first woman ordained into Christian ministry since biblical times as well as the lives and ministries of UCC clergywomen who exemplify Brown’s spirit of trailblazing leadership in church and society.
Forty years later, the pathways are considerably widened for women in ministry in the UCC, but there are still necessarily pioneers and innovators in our midst, women who lead in extraordinary ways and who make possible other women’s ministries. From March 1 – April 15, 2015, we invite your nominations of trailblazers (UCC clergywomen who honor Antoinette Brown’s vision of women in leadership in church and society) as well as catalysts (collectives, projects, congregations, or organizations that serve as provocative spaces that advance women in ministry). Honorees will be celebrated at General Synod 30 in Cleveland this summer.
Recent recipients of the Antoinette Brown Award in recent years include:
Barbara Ann Gerlach: Artist, Minister, Advocate for Justice/Artista, Ministra, Defensora de la Paz y la Justicia
"I resonate with a God who frees me and calls me to a journey of love, creativity and adventure.
The survival of our planet depends on breaking down the dividing walls of nation and class, race and sex, religion and political ideology . . . seeing ourselves, above all our other identities, as one body and members one of another."1
 As quoted from Antoinette Brown Award Acceptance Speech. UCC General Synod, Tampa, Florida. July 4 2011
Carole C. Carlson: Conference Minister, Writer/Ministra de Conferencia, Escritora
"Much of what I have done has been a personal, one-on-one ministry. I tried to support and encourage women marginalized during the time when there was tremendous discrimination in the church."
Bernice Powell Jackson, Journey for Justice/Lucha por la Justicia
Local, national, and world justice and peace advocate. First woman as executive director of the UCC Commission for Racial Justice and as Executive Minister of Justice and Witness (UCC), President of the North American region of the World Council of Churches.
You, I, we must actively resist injustice. It doesn't matter which one, pick one.
Marilyn Adams Moore, Social Prophet/Profeta Social
An ordained woman of faith and courage, Marilyn served the United Church of Christ for more than twenty years in mobilizing justice ministries in racial and ethnic groups.
"I think if the UCC is truly about what we say 'that they may all be one,' then we should be honest about what we really mean concerning pluralism. People don’t really want to share power, but it is mind boggling that we think power is ours to give. Power that we conceive as ours is really nothing. Power is of God." – Marilyn Adams Moore
There is great hunger in the human heart and among the peoples of the earth for meaning and purpose for their lives and for liberating truth and power. The church is looked to by many for vision, direction, and courage. People, both within and outside of the church today, long to know the scriptures, to become articulate about faith, and to see more clearly the relationship between the gospel and the realities of the world. – Ansley Coe Throckmorton
Betty Jane Bailey, A Ministry of Education/Un Ministerio de Educación
"The church is a gathered community of people seeking to live together in love. They are equipping themselves for their own ministry and mission out in the world...People in the church are also called to think theologically about life and events – to put them in a perspective which includes God. The gathering together must result in a sending back into the world to respond to events in the world in a healing way."
Barbara Brown Zidmund, Church Historian/Historiadora de la Iglesia - Theological Educator/Educadora Teológica
“Women are reinventing ministry for the future, refusing old definitions, and reshaping understandings of ordained persons. The setting apart of a few to full-time Christian service is a functional not a value judgment. The calling to the ministry is not qualitatively any better than that of many other vocations, it is simply different.” BBZ – Church historian, theological educator
Candita Bauzá-Mattos Primera Mujer Hispana Ordenada en la Iglesia Unida de Cristo
Cuando vine acá y me di cuenta de la relación que tenían la Iglesia Unida de Cristo y la Iglesia Evangélica Unida de Puerto Rico, sentí que yo pertenecía a algo que era no solamente bravío sino que poseía un don que daba sentido a mi vida y a mi ministerio.
Candita Bauzá-Mattos, primera mujer graduada del Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico y la primera en ser ordenada en la Iglesia Evangélica Unida de Puerto Rico, es la coordinadora y consultante del Concilio de Ministerios Hispanos de la Iglesia Unida de Cristo.
Candita Bauzá-Mattos, First Hispanic Woman Ordained in the Evangelical United Church of Puerto Rico
When I came here and saw the relationship that the United Church of Christ and the United Evangelical Church of Puerto Rico had, I felt that I belonged to something that was not only brave but a gift that gives meaning to my life and to my ministry.
Candita Bauzá-Mattos, first Hispanic woman to graduate from the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico, and first ordained in the Evangelical United Church of Puerto Rico, is the coordinator and consultant of the Council of Hispanic Ministries of the United Church of Christ.
In responding to community issues and to individuals in her church, this community healer and reconciler has learned to make space for God. She first asks, What is missing that I am called of God to make present? “I'm not trying to bring God to people, I'm trying to surface what I know is already there.”
For me, the central call of pastoral ministry is to build hope and build faith. The opportunity to build the church—be it by building the community, building the structure, or creating new opportunities for learning or service—is one of the true joys of pastoral ministry.
The first woman to receive a divinity degree at Yale, Bernice Buehler became National Director of Religious Education for the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
"Bernice was a gung-ho go-getter in terms of fighting for the rights of children and for their respect. She took an important role in setting forth needs and concerns of children – a power house in educational resources."
"For me, ministry is possible only as responsiveness to the moving of God among the people, and a willingness to be used by God, often in surprising ways. The work has to be something worth doing; that in itself gives meaning to ministry. It must feel like God needs me to be there."
"The question still today is whether we are in touch with God enough ourselves to be able to mediate and facilitate so that other folks also will come into God's presence and grow as faithful people."
Annie Rubena Campbell
The Reverend Annie Rubena Campbell received the Antoinette Brown Award in 1977. Any readers who supported her nomination and any other readers who know anything about Annie are invited to email contact information to Dee Brauninger at email@example.com.
Annie worked in the Ozark missions, and was much loved by the "mountain folks." It is thought that she also had medical training. It is not known if Annie Campbell is still living.
Immigrant pastor, educator, advocate for North Carolina's Latino community, María Teresa Unger Palmer has recognized many gifts and talents as her initial ministry expanded and evolved into an ever-broadening voice of justice.
The church kept asking me to substitute preach. They asked me to do more and more. That was what I really deep down wanted to do but didn't know if I could. It opened up the doors when I said yes that first night.
Minister to society, Yvonne Virginia Delk has committed most of her life to dismantling racism, "binding in covenant faithful people of all tongues and races."
Like Sojourner, I too have traveled up and down this land telling the truth as I see it about racism, sexism, economic injustice, and violence. Facing the truth—and telling the truth—not only sets us free, but calls for new ways of being, of speaking, of acting, and of witnessing.
I want my students to know that Christianity must be an embodiment and practice, not a set of statements or words. I encourage my students to celebrate diversity because it is God's intention that diverse cultures learn how to hear each other, to stand each other in our differences.
"We finally have come to understand that we cannot be an inclusive church unless all people, regardless of their disability, color of their skin, or national origin are welcome in Christ's Church. Let us give thanks for our individual uniqueness and for Christ who binds Christians together as different pieces of cloth are brought together to make a quilt."
- The Rev. Virginia Kreyer, Mother of the Disabilities Ministries Movement in the United Church of Christ
The Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune, founder of FaithTrust Institute, (formerly known as the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence), and widely known author, speaker, teacher and advocate for ending domestic violence, was the earliest voice in the church to name sexual abuse and begin to address it in our churches.
Leila Waite Anderson held a traveling national staff position in Christian Education that led her through the Convention of the South, the northern prairie and then from New York to the Hawaiian Islands. She drove a station wagon that served as home and office.
Changed attitudes and practices in people's lives are more important than the mouthing of theological phrases; therefore Christian education should help individuals and groups to make Christian choices when confronted with alternatives of thought and action.
A teacher is a person who can guide a group in finding its own answers.
Barbara Mosley de Souza founded the Association of Community Health Educators in Rio de Janeiro in 1996. The health clinic offers medical treatment, health education and disease prevention to the whole shantytown community. Where knowledge is so scarce, it is critical to teach people to understand in their own terms in ways they can communicate with people of their same level of experience.
Education is empowerment. In the midst of corruption and violence, we are bringing hope and we have proved that with unity, we can accomplish a lot.
Justice is the strongest sense of God for me. Faith has to be lived out. My life has been a journey of doing what needs to be done in this long struggle.
Activist movements, particularly women's liberation, have shaped most of Jan Griesinger's life and work as a campus minister and lesbian pastor. The first Antoinette Brown Award recipient chosen because of her lesbian activism, she was active in the UCC Gay Caucus and National Co-Coordinator of the Coalition (1984-1997).
Ministry has given me the privilege of entering into people's lives—helping them grow spiritually and personally. Yet as a pastor I am deeply concerned about social justice issues. It is rewarding to be doing something and saying something that you really care about and you think and hope will make a difference.
Farthest from my mind then, as now, was the intention of leading a feminist movement for the so-called "emancipation of women" in the church. The church's expectations about the non-ordination of women ministers were neither written nor spoken about. The only ferment was in the minds of those women who wanted to be ordained. - The first woman from Lancaster Theological Seminary to be ordained.
If an adventure opens up for you that leads you into a larger understanding of the church, go. . . . Long term pastorates – if you can keep yourself finding what is fresh – are an amazing thing to have. You know people from the time you baptize them and marry them then baptize their kids.
Women are a vital part of the church -- not just an appendage. Wherever she went, she gained the confidence of church program participants. Her training and ability to relate to people of all ages overcame the sexist hostility of the 1930s. Although the Navy did not hire its first woman chaplain until the 1970's, she acted as 'chaplain' to the serving women.
I knew as a young woman that I wanted work where I could have freedom to be myself, work that I could not wait to get up in the morning for and that I didn't mind putting in long hours. God answered those prayers in conference ministry.
What I knew from early on is that I wanted to help people. I want to communicate that there is no better gift to give than to be there for someone when it really counts. As Eden's Professor of Field Education and the Practice of Ministry (1988-2003), she married her passion for pastoral ministry with seminary work.
Human liberation means just that: full personhood for all. For a number of years, Barbara Warren McCall was a minister-in-waiting. Then she served as a bridge woman who caught the vision of feminism through her own professional pilgrimage.
"The justice issue seeks you out," reflected Rosemary McCombs Maxey, first American Indian woman to be ordained in the United Church of Christ. Today she teaches the MVSKOKE language in order to keep it alive. On Mondays, she makes her weekly three-hour drive as chaplain to Native Hawaiians incarcerated at Watonga. "In order to get along, we need not get rid of people's differences but honor them as uniqueness."
Whatever her storytelling form of expression—writing, media production, orating or preaching—LaVerne McCain Gill's lifework offers an invitation to explore. She brings together women of all times with stories that share how oppressed persons, particularly African women and African American women, have met hopelessness with hope.
A disability weaves its way into and through everything that happens in a person's life. It added a particular texture to Dosia's whole be-ing. While only one thread of her unique fabric, her personal battle was to permeate all that she would do and become.
Joan Bates Forsberg Bridge to Understanding/Puente al entendimiento
"Out of the blue, I was invited to go to the Divinity School. Twenty-eight women students had told Dean Colin Williams that they needed a faculty woman with whom they could talk "when things are really bad and we need an advocate.' He said, 'You're right.'"
She soon was promoted to Assistant Dean and then to Associate Dean for Student Life, where she continued to advocate for women.
Take a look at this list: Early sexuality educator; advocate for justice for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered community; author; and retreat leader in areas of racial justice, human sexuality, parent effectiveness, feminist theology and spiritual development. That's Eleanor Shelton Morrison!
I gain my energy from, and give my energy to the wonders of life rather than to our failings as human beings…. When a word needs to be spoken over against some forms of sin or injustice, I do speak it…. Still, I believe that the primary word from God is a word of blessing.
My call to the Christian ministry was a gradual unfolding and awakening. At almost forty, I was reminded that as an individual one must continually plant the seeds that later come to fruition through the work of the Holy Spirit.
I discovered, not without tears and anger, that the church had far to go to be just toward women and other humans. I began to make connections between the church's many masculine images for God and its historic exclusion of women from ministries. Read on to learn what gift she used to make a difference.
I was among the earliest clergy women in the Congregational Church. The turn of the century (1900) was a daring, expectant time when "Pioneer Spirit" gained new meaning. Some church members lived a hundred miles from the church. Black Beauty, my pony, and I traveled many miles together visiting them.
As a youth, I could always spot something attractive or positive in whoever it was. I can see the potential. As a chaplain in a women's prison, I deal with poverty, domestic violence, sexism, child abuse, mental illness and addiction -- all in one place, all the worst issues women have to deal with.
Complete List of Recipients
1975 Reverends Joan Forsberg and Rhoda Jane Dickinson (deceased)
1977 Reverends Davida Foy Crabtree and Annie Campbell (deceased)
1979 Reverends Dr. Yvonne Delk and Alice Snow (deceased)
1981 Reverends Ansley Coe Throckmorton and Leila Waite Anderson (deceased)
1983 Reverends Bernice Buehler (deceased) and Dosia Carlson
1985 Reverends Gretchen DeVries (deceased) and Beatrice Weaver McConnell
1987 Reverends Marie Fortune and Barbara Warren McCall (deceased)
1989 Reverends Joyce Myers-Brown and Anne Pearse Smith (deceased)
1991 Reverends Eleanor Shelton Morrison (deceased) and Marilyn Adams Moore (deceased)
1993 Reverends Laurie Whinnem Etter and Peggy Brainerd Way
1995 Reverends Mary Ann Neevel and Henrietta Stith-Andrews
1997 Reverends Barbara de Souza and Rosemary McCombs Maxey
1999 Reverends Marilyn Stavenger and Jan Griesinger
2001 Reverends María Teresa Unger Palmer and Betty Jane Bailey
2003 Reverends Ruth C. Duck and LaVerne McCain Gill
2005 Reverends Ruth M. Brandon and Barbara B. Zikmund
2007 Reverends Virginia Kreyer (deceased) and Talitha J. Arnold
2009 Reverends Candita Bauzá-Mattos and Julie Peeples
2011 Reverends Barbara Gerlach, Bernice Powell Jackson and Carole Carlson
In 2013, there were no recipients of this award during a season of transition.