The Rev. Patricia A. Davenport of Philadelphia has become the first African American woman to be elected a bishop in the history of the 30-year-old Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
She will head the 95,000-member Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, which has 160 congregations in the city and four suburban counties.
Bishop-elect Davenport, 63, won the election Saturday, earning 331 of 478 votes cast during the regional group's annual assembly at the meeting space of Franconia Mennonite Church. She defeated the Rev. Julie K. DeWerth of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in King of Prussia and the Rev. Carlton E. Rodgers of Tabernacle Lutheran Church in Philadelphia.
She made history by less than 24 hours. The denomination's South-Central Synod of Wisconsin elected the Rev. Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld, also an African American woman, to be the new bishop Sunday.
It's "one thing is to know the job description, [it's another] thing to know the job," Davenport said in a short speech following the election, a video of which is posted on the synod website. "Who in their mind would want to do this?" she continued, seeming to joke with those gathered in the sanctuary. "So my prayer was 'not my will, but thy will be done.'"
Davenport currently serves as the synod's director of evangelical mission and as an assistant to the bishop. She is a member of the Spirit and Truth Worship Center in Yeadon, Delaware County. She earned a master of divinity degree from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.