The 2011 Recipients of the Antoinette Brown Award
At each General Synod since 1975, clergywomen have been honored in a very special way. Two ordained women in the United Church of Christ have been selected to receive the Antoinette Brown Award, named in recognition of the first woman ordained into Christian ministry. These recipients demonstrate outstanding ministries of courage and faithfulness with an emphasis on justice, especially justice for women.
The selection committee this year was comprised of members of the Boards of Directors of the Covenanted Ministries and a past recipient. With almost 30 nominees, the committee reached consensus fairly quickly on two important items: 1) who should be honored at Synod this year; and 2) that there would be three recipients.
We are very please to announce that the Revs. Barbara Gerlach, Bernice Powell Jackson, and Carole Carlson will be presented with the Antoinette Brown Award on July 4 at the Women in Ministry Luncheon at General Synod 28.
Each clergywoman in her own way has been foundational in the UCC as our church became committed to women serving in the ordained ministry, to justice for women, and to justice in the world.
Rev. Gerlach, through her work with the UCC Task Force and Advisory Commission on Women, was a strong voice in the early1970’s calling upon the UCC to use gender inclusive language and to establish the Coordinating Center for Women in Church and Society (CCW). She broke new ground for women in ministry serving as a co-pastor with her husband, the late Rev. John Mack, as together they lived out a vision of co-equal ministry. An accomplished artist, Barbara’s portraits of women and children who themselves face struggle, move the viewer to compassion. Her solidarity with the movement for human rights and peace in Colombia continues today, inspired by her two children, now adults, who were adopted from Colombia.
Rev. Powell Jackson has been engaged in the struggle for justice all of her life and has had a particular interest in opening up opportunities for African American women and girls. She has worked with former governors (Hugh Carey of NY), Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, and served as the first woman executive director for the Commission for Racial Justice (UCC). In 2000, Bernice became a member of the Collegium of Officers for the UCC and the Executive Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Bernice served as interim minister at Beecher Memorial Congregational UCC before being called as pastor of First United UCC in Tampa. She is President for the North American region for the World Council of Churches. Her passion for justice for all of God’s peoples remains unwavering.
Rev. Carlson has always been there quietly but with tremendous determination working with women in ministry and preparing for ministry as a mentor, supporter and advocate. Long before there were very many women serving in local churches, Carole was leading search committees in conversation and discernment about being open to women in the pulpit, as well as all advocating that all settings of the church confront and deal with abuses of power. She drew upon her own experience as one of the first women to serve as Senior Minister of a multiple staff congregation, as a Conference Minister in New Hampshire, and then as a member of the Connecticut Conference staff with special responsibility for clergy concerns. Throughout her ministry, Carole has informally coached women across the UCC who have experienced discrimination in their search process. Her pastoral skills and prophetic courage live side-by-side. Carole is a much-respected colleague by her peers and is often called upon to consult as she enjoys her retirement years.