The Pacific School of Religion community grieves the death of Rev. Jeanne Audrey Powers, Methodist leader and fearless social justice advocate. Rev. Powers passed away at age 85 on September 29, 2017. Pacific School of Religion’s Office of Institutional Advancement and Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion host The Jean Audrey Powers Leadership for Change scholarship, which honors her work and was made possible through her generosity.
Rev. Powers’ lifetime of service to the United Methodist Church began as a deacon in 1958. Upon her ordination as an elder in 1961, Rev. Powers was one of the first women to be ordained in the United Methodist Church. She would later become the first woman to be nominated as a bishop in the UMC, but declined, concerned about the lack of privacy the process would entail.
A tireless advocate for ecumenism and human rights, Rev. Powers served on staff at the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCCC), leading both its Faith and Order Commission and Commission on Regional and Local Ecumenism. From 1972 to 1996, Rev. Powers was the Associate General Secretary for the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. She also served the World Council of Churches in three General Assemblies.
When she more publicly came out in a 1995 sermon,, Rev. Powers became the highest-ranking openly gay UMC official. She worked to advance LGBTQ affirmation in the United Methodist Church via the Reconciling Ministries Network.
Over 40 students have received the Jeanne Audrey Powers Leadership for Change Scholarship, which was originally awarded to Methodist students working towards the full inclusion of LGBTQ members of the United Methodist Church. Later, Rev. Powers broadened the focus of the scholarship to include any PSR student and students from United Methodist seminaries committed to this critical work. We are indebted to Rev. Powers’ revolutionary spirit and visionary leadership.
Rev. Powers’ memorial service will take place October 23rd at 3:30pm in the Decker Building at Pilgrim Place (625 Mayflower Road, Claremont, CA 91711).
Her epitaph will read “subversive to the end.”