Bishop Sarah Frances Davis, president of the Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and vice president of the World Methodist Council, died Nov. 9 after a brief illness, the World Methodist Council said in a statement.
A clerical trailblazer, she was only the third woman in the 218-year history of the AME Church to reach its highest level, the office of bishop on July 6, 2004, and at the time of her death was the presiding prelate of the16th Episcopal District. That district is made up of churches and schools in South America (Guyana and Suriname); Windward Islands (Trinidad, Tobago, Barbados and Grenada); the Caribbean Islands (Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Virgin Islands); and Europe (London, the Netherlands and France).
She was known as the “Prayer Bishop” because of her consistent emphasis on the importance of prayer in the life of the Church.
Her ministerial career included several “firsts” beginning with her appointment by AME Bishop John Bryant as the first female pastor of the 115-year old Bethel AME Church in San Antonio, Texas, making her the first female in Texas to be named to run a major AME church.
In 1997 she became the first woman in the Connectional AME church to be appointed chair of a board of examiners, serving as chair of the board for the Tenth Episcopal District.
In 2004, she was singled out by Ebony Magazine as one of the 50 Most Intriguing Persons for 2004.
She was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Houston Graduate School of Theology; served as Chair of the Global Development Council (GDC) of the AME Church (2009-2011); was a member of the Jamaica Council of Churches at the time of her death.
In August 2011, she was elected vice president of the World Methodist Council, linking Methodist, Wesleyan and related Union churches in more than 132 countries, representing nearly 43 million members worldwide.
In October 2012, Bishop Davis represented the World Methodist Council as a guest of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI at the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, Italy. The meeting held under the theme The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, addressed the call of the Church to its original missionary goal and sought to rekindle the original fire in Christians worldwide, according to the World Methodist Council website.
She earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Southern Methodist University Perkins School of Theology, a Master of Divinity from the Houston Graduate School of Theology, a Master of Science from Pace University in New York, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Texas.
“In October [World Methodist Council Youth and Young Adult Coordinator] John Thomas III and I had a chance to visit Bishop Davis on behalf of the World Methodist Council. We found her to be in great spirits and excited that her hopes for the Council meeting in London were realized,” remarked General Secretary Ivan Abrahams.
Bishop Davis is survived by her husband, Claytie Davis Jr., her sons Corey B. Davis, Dr. Claytie Davis III and his wife Yolanda, and a grandchild, Alexandra Morgan Davis.
Social media outlets began to crackle within hours of her death. AME Bishop John Bryant tweeted, “This day a great woman has fallen in Zion, Bishop Sarah Frances Davis of the 16th District of the AMEC.” The Rev. Frank M Reid III, pastor of Bethel AME Church in Baltimore, tweeted, “Please pray for the family of Bishop Sarah Davis who died this morning! Pray for the 16th Episcopal District and their healing!”