DR. ELLA PEARSON MITCHELL, DEAN OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN PREACHERS, DIES
VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 11/26/08) — Rev. Dr. Ella Pearson Mitchell, a distinguished religious educator, renowned preacher, and celebrated author, died November 19 in Atlanta, GA. She was 91.
Ella Pearson Mitchell was one half of an acclaimed ministry duo that included her husband of 64 years, Dr. Henry H. Mitchell. She was a pioneer in African-American preaching and religious education, and her reputation as a promoter and encourager of women in ministry, especially in the area of homiletics, earned her the title, “dean of African-American women preachers.” Outspoken on the subject, she once declared, “I am convinced that women were ordained to be in ministry from the very beginning of time.”
Dr. Mitchell compiled and edited six books featuring women and preaching. Most notable is her five-volume series, “Those Preaching Women,” begun in 1985. In 2008, Judson Press published Those Preaching Women: A Multicultural Collection, co-edited by Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Valerie Bridgeman Davis.
Ella and Henry Mitchell, known for their dialogues in the pulpit, published their sermons in Fire in the Well. They also wrote Together for Good: Lessons from Fifty-Five Years of Marriage (also Judson Press).
A longtime member of American Baptist Churches USA, Dr. Mitchell served as president of the Board of Educational Ministries from 1959 to 1973.
Longtime friend and fellow American Baptist Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III, executive director of National Ministries, said of her passing, “Dr. Ella Mitchell is a true Christian ‘shero’ of our time. She and Henry modeled black church ministerial leadership for a generation of African-American preachers. She certainly helped to shape my identity as a preacher, reminding me of my roots in the black church. Ella Mitchell also represented hope that women, and African American women in particular, could respond affirmatively to the call of God on their lives. Their overwhelming response is her legacy.”
Dr. Mitchell broke down many barriers, achieving a number of “firsts” for women in ministry. She was the first female dean of Sisters Chapel, Spelman College, Atlanta, GA, and the first woman to preach at Hampton Ministerial Conference, Hampton, VA. She earned a doctor of ministry degree from Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, CA.
Dr. Mitchell was the second African-American woman to graduate from New York’s Union Theological Seminary, which honored Drs. Ella and Henry Mitchell in February with their 2008 Trailblazer award, given to distinguished black graduates.
As an educator, she taught Religious Education at Berkeley Baptist Divinity School (now American Baptist Seminary of the West), Berkeley, CA, and served as associate professor of Christian Education, Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University, Richmond, VA. She also taught Homiletics as visiting professor at Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center from 1988-2001.
Dr. Mitchell’s passing has been received by colleagues, friends and admirers with a mixture of sadness and fond remembrances of her more than 60 years in ministry. Continue reading here.
The funeral will be held Tuesday, December 2nd at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where Dr. Ella Pearson Mitchell and her husband Dr. Henry Mitchell have been members for many years.
published in Monday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dr. Ella Pearson Mitchell became an ordained minister in 1978 shortly after the death of her mother, who had been opposed to the idea. She was ordained at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, California and preached at churches around the country, including Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist.