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Philly makes history with installation of first black female Lutheran bishop

Patricia Ann Curtis Davenport of East Oak Lane is one of 13 women among the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's 65 bishops.

Rev. Patricia Ann Curtis Davenport is installed as bishop of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at the New Covenant Church in Philadelphia on Saturday. She is the first African American woman elected to that position.
Rev. Patricia Ann Curtis Davenport is installed as bishop of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at the New Covenant Church in Philadelphia on Saturday. She is the first African American woman elected to that position.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI

She was a reluctant candidate, recognizing the many challenges of Christian leadership, tight finances, and declining membership among them. But the Rev. Patricia Ann Curtis Davenport of East Oak Lane was overwhelmingly elected in May to lead the 80,000-member Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

On Saturday afternoon, in a ceremony attended by approximately 2,000 worshipers and religious leaders from throughout the region and country, Davenport, 63, a widow and mother of three, was installed as bishop — the first African American woman elected to the post in a denomination whose 3.5 million congregants are 96 percent white.

>> READ MORE: Lutheran minister from Philly overcame misgivings to make history as first black female bishop

She succeeds the Rev. Claire Schenot Burkat, 66, who served two six-year terms. With the installation Saturday of the Rev. Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld, who was elected one day after Davenport in the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin and is also African American, 13 of the denomination's 65 bishops are women.

Leading Davenport's installation ceremony at New Covenant Church in West Mount Airy was ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.

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