Louisville

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, II paid tribute today (August 9) to the Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon, who died August 8.

Cannon, the first African American woman ordained to the ministry in the former United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) “represented the power of faith and love despite the tensions of both race and gender struggles within the denomination,” Nelson said. “Her quick wit was not to  be mistaken as ‘throw away lines,’ but grounded in a sense of expressing some hard truths in ways that all could understand.”

The full text of Nelson’s tribute:

August 9, 2018 

Official Statement on the death of the Reverend Doctor Katie Geneva Cannon
From the Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk 

The Reverend Doctor Katie Cannon represented the best of contemporary scholarship through her use of “down home” southern African American culture shaped by a strong sense of connections to contemporary womanist and movement theology. Her theological gifts were shaped by humble beginnings in rural North Carolina. As the first African American Woman ordained in the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., she represented the power of faith and love despite the tensions of both race and gender struggles within the denomination and the academy. Her ordination gave rise to a new call understanding in the denomination and the African American community. Katie was a pioneer and witness to the biblical call to make disciples of all nations in a period of gender and racial strife in both the Church and broader society. She dared to believe that an African American woman from rural North Carolina, graduating from the only African American Presbyterian Seminary (Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary) in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), could dare to enter an overwhelmingly white theological academy and make a difference. 

The powerful witness to her work for the Lord is that she told her story without compromise as to how the Lord God, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, gave her enlightenment and life. Her quick wit was not to be mistaken as “throw away lines,” but grounded in a sense of expressing some hard truths in ways that all could understand. She was a powerful expression of a rural upbringing that was not compromised by scholarly acclaim or ivory tower lectures. Her truth was made plain by her commitment to following Jesus’ words, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). Katie now rests in power with all the saints who sought to make the Church a viable expression of God’s will for the age to come. Her legacy and life will continue even in death. 

Our prayers are with the family during this time. Her mother Corine, and siblings Sara, Doris, Sylvia, John Wesley, and Jerry. 

In the Faith that we share, 

Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)