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National leader speaks, preaches at Annual Meeting

The preacher and keynote speaker for the PNCUCC Annual Meeting Friday to Sunday, April 25 to 28, at Plymouth UCC in Seattle will be the Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson, the first woman of African descent to be elected as the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ (UCC).

The Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson       
Photo courtesy of the UCC

She was elected to a four-year term to that role by the UCC General Synod in July 2023 and installed in October.

Previously, Karen Georgia served in the national UCC setting for 14 years, two years as minister for racial justice, eight years as minister for ecumenical and interfaith relations and four years beginning in 2019 as the associate general minister for Wider Church Ministries and co-executive for Global Ministries.

Her passion for justice and equity led her to the UCC global work to reduce the marginalization African descendant peoples and other communities experience.

Before joining the national staff, Karen Georgia served as the Florida UCC Conference’s first woman pastor of African descent when she served the new, 15-member New Hope UCC in DeLand, Fla.

She also served on the conference staff as the minister for disaster response and recovery, and previously worked in leadership positions with nonprofits for more than 10 years.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, she immigrated to the New York as a teenager and earned a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College, followed by a master’s in public administration from North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C., and a master of divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York. In addition, she studied public policy at Duke University.

Karen Georgia earned a doctorate in ministry at Seattle University and was also awarded an honorary doctorate from Heidelberg University.

Being a Black woman, an African descendant, Jamaican immigrant, poet and public theologian are central identities in Karen Georgia’s life, work and ministry, reports

The United Church of Christ, a church in the united and uniting church family, was created in 1957 as a union between the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational and Christian churches with roots in German Lutheranism, German and Swiss Reformed traditions, Anabaptist Christian Church traditions and English Congregationalism, descended from Puritans and Separatists in England and New England.

The 2023 General Synod recognized a fifth stream of its roots in the Afro-Christian Convention.

Since its beginning, the UCC has been a diverse communion with congregations of many racial and ethnic origins—African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American, Pacific Islander and more.

From its diversity and commitment to being a united and uniting church, the UCC engages varied ecclesial and liturgical perspectives of its members. It is committed to becoming more intentionally multi-racial and multicultural, open and affirming to gifts of gay and lesbian persons as members and ordained ministers, accessible to all people, and dedicated to pursuing ecumenical relationships, and peace and justice in the church and the world, according to

Karen Georgia said the most difficult part of her work is not the long days and hard work but being a Black woman and having her skin color and gender trigger questions about her expertise and authority.

“The faith component allows me to get up every morning and step back into these places of trauma,” Karen Georgia said. “The color of my skin triggers the thought that this person doesn’t know anything. 

“The church has work to do—the work of confession and owning where we have gotten things wrong,” she said.

A writer and poet, her works are published in books, journals and online publications. Her poetry book, Drums in Our Veins, published in 2020, focuses on the injustices facing people of African descent, and the fight and desire for racial justice globally.

According to a report on Karen Georgia after she was nominated as general minister and president of the UCC in March, her leadership has created opportunities for dialogue and safe space for engaging expressions of religious multiplicity.

Her doctoral dissertation looked at ways African Caribbean people continue to practice African derived religious and spiritual expressions along with other religions and  with Christianity.

Highlighting the UCC’s spiritual diversity, Karen Georgia said, “I see the UCC as a place that will continue to welcome those who come. As a community, we are theologically diverse and will continue to be so. We hold the tensions of beliefs, theologies, race, gender identification and more.

Karen Georgia supports the UCC ethos of welcoming people, creating space for people to explore their spirituality, including those on the fringe of what what is considered mainstream or mainline Christianity.

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Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ Conference News © April 2024


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