Marjorie Matthews

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Marjorie Matthews
ChurchUnited Methodist Church
Personal details
BornJuly 11, 1916
DiedJune 30, 1986(1986-06-30) (aged 69)
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Marjorie Swank Matthews (July 11, 1916 – June 30, 1986) was an American bishop of the United Methodist Church and the first woman to serve as a Methodist bishop.

Early life[edit]

She was born July 11, 1916, in Onaway, Michigan, to Jesse Alonzo and Charlotte Mae (Chapman) Swank.[1] She married young and divorced after World War II.[1] She had one son, William Jesse Matthews.[2] She worked at Lobdell-Emery Manufacturing Company in Alma, Michigan to support herself and her son.[2]


Matthews graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University in 1967.[2] She then went on to receive a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Colgate Rochester Divinity School in 1970.[3] Completing her schooling at Florida State University, she received both a master's in religion and a doctorate in humanities in 1976.[2]


While Matthews was completing her education, she served as an elder in churches in her home state of Michigan, as well as New York and Florida.[2] She was the second female district superintendent in the United Methodist Church.[2] She served as superintendent of the Grand Traverse District from 1976.[4]

Ordained ministry[edit]

During July 1980, the North Central Jurisdiction of United Methodist Church met for an annual conference.[5] There were only 23 female clergy in attendance out of 460 delegates.[5] The delegates in attendance represented the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.[5] During the conference, there were 13 delegates, Matthews included, who were running for three bishop seats.[5] After twenty-nine ballots, two bishops were elected by acclamation on the thirtieth ballot at the North Central Jurisdictional Conference on July 17, 1980.[5] Matthews was elected the first woman bishop at the United Methodist Church North Central regional conference in Dayton, Ohio.[2] She served as bishop for the Wisconsin area for four years before retiring in 1984.[3] On June 30, 1986, Matthews died of breast cancer in Grand Rapids, Michigan.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Background info". Archived from the original on 2013-05-09. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Goldman, Ari L. (2 July 1986). "Bishop Matthews, A Methodist, Dies". The New York Times.
  3. ^ a b Cantlon, Marie, Keller, Rosemary Skinner, and Ruether, Rosemary Radford, eds. Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America: Indiana University Press, 2006.
  4. ^ "Matthews, Marjorie, Bp, 1917-1986, Obit". The Christian Century. 103 (22): 643. 16 July 1986.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Rader, Sharon Zimmerman; Crain, Margaret Ann (2019). Women bishops of The United Methodist Church: extraordinary gifts of the spirit. ISBN 978-1-5018-8631-7. OCLC 1090652655.[page needed]

External links[edit]