Disciples Divinity House

of the University of Chicago

Alumna Terri Owens elected General Minister and President

July 14, 2017 —  

Disciples Divinity House alumna Rev. Teresa (Terri) Hord Owens was elected by an overwhelming majority at General Assembly on Sunday, July 9, as the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. AlumnaeYvonne Gilmore and Alexis Kassim made powerful speeches in support of Rev. Owens, who is the first African-American woman to lead the denomination and to lead any mainline Protestant denomination. Rev. Owens has been Dean of Students at the Divinity School since 2005, and she serves as Senior Minister of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Downers Grove, Illinois.

“We saw in Terri that unique combination of pastoral leadership, active presence in all expressions of the Church, and administrative experience that the search committee believed was most needed,” said Search Committee Chair Jackie Bunch. “She has experience as a local pastor, theologian and leader. The search committee recognized that leading the Church in this day and age requires a certain business acumen as well as a heart for ministry. We see that Terri brings that special mix of academic, executive, and pastoral qualities that are required for leading the Disciples through this time in our North American culture. She has a background of bringing together diverse groups for dialogue that will serve the Church well.”

A Disciple since young adulthood, Rev. Owens comes to the position in a time of renewed emphasis on the issues of race, particularly in the United States. "We need to stop demonizing differences as deficiencies," Rev. Owens said. "We should seek to understand, to work through our differences in priorities, opinions, methods, and goals. This will not be easy, but imagine what an example this will be for the world if we can bridge the gaps in politics, identity, geography and theology."

Rev. Owens's election follows the 12-year tenure of the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, who was the first woman to lead a mainline denomination in the United States. She will serve a six year term with an option for re-election in 2023 for an additional six-year term. Rev. Owens's installation service was held on July 12, the final evening of the General Assembly (Disciples of Christ).