Celebrating Women's History Month in the WNCC: Rev. Dr. Nancy Burgin Rankin

March 16, 2023

By: Jim Pyatt, WNCC Archivist & Historian

Rev. Dr. Nancy Burgin Rankin

The Rev. Dr. Nancy Burgin Rankin is a pioneer for clergywomen in the WNC Conference in many ways. When she was appointed as District Superintendent of the Statesville District in 1996 she was the third woman to serve in this positing in the WNC Conference. When she was appointed as pastor at University City UMC in 2001 Nancy was the first woman in our conference to serve as Senior Pastor of a church with more than 1000 members (other than as an interim). In 2001 Nancy was also the first woman from the WNC Conference to receive significant consideration for election to the episcopacy. While she ultimately was not elected as Bishop, she was the leading vote-getter on multiple ballots at that called Jurisdictional Conference.

As the daughter of the Rev. Grady Burgin, Nancy grew up in the church. Like many “Preacher’s Kids” she struggled with the call to ministry, though she did so in an era when there were very few role models for women clergy. So, when she went to college, Nancy chose to major in Christian Education, with the goal of being a Christian Educator. After she received her B.A. from High Point University, she was admitted into the Master of Religious Education program at Duke Divinity School. Nancy served her first field education assignment the summer prior to entering the program, working with the Rev. Paul Hacklander at Trinity Memorial UMC in Trinity. One of the first things Paul asked her to do was to preach on Sunday, June 14 while he was at Annual Conference. Nancy protested that she was a Christian Education major, but Paul prevailed upon her and she preached. That sermon and her experiences during that summer caused her to feel led to change direction, enter the Master of Divinity program, and seek ordination in the UMC.

As a colleague of Nancy’s since seminary I have marveled at how Nancy has successfully balanced her roles as a student, pastor, mother, and wife, finding a way to do it all and do it all well. During her student days she would sometimes have her children with her and they would all be studying together. She would share with others what was happening with her family, and did a remarkable job of maintaining a healthy balance. This balance has continued to be a goal of hers throughout her years of ministry. Nancy is also quick to state that she could never have gone to school and served in ministry without her husband Terry’s unwavering support of her calling and serving.

Dr. Rankin subsequently received the D. Min. degree from United Theological Seminary, working with Dr. Michael Slaughter and Dr. Tom Tumblin, with her dissertation being “Reclaiming the Ministry of the Laity.” She is the author of Checking Vital Signs and co-author (with Beth Crissman) of Choosing the Faithful Path.

Nancy Rankin was ordained Deacon and received as Probationary Member in 1983, then ordained Elder and received in Full Connection in 1986. She has served the following appointments: 1984-87 Winston-Salem:Mount Tabor Associate; 1987-91 Charlotte:Oak Grove; 1991-96 Concord:Central; 1996-2001 Statesville District Superintendent’2001-04 Charlotte: University City; 2004-08 Conference Director of Congregational Development; 2008-11 Mint Hill:Blair Road; 2011-12 Statesville District Superintendent; 2012-18 Northern Piedmont District Superintendent; 2018 Retired. In her retirement Dr. Rankin continues to serve as the Coordinator of Transformation Journey for the WNC Conference and as a certified coach through ICF-International Coach Federation.

Nancy has represented the WNC Conference at six General Conferences (delegate 1996-2008 and first alternate 1992 and 2012) and seven Jurisdictional Conferences (1988-2012). She

has served on the Committee on the Episcopacy (1987-95; 2008-12, serving as Secretary 1988-92), Conference Ministries Advisory Council (1996-2000), Council on Congregational Development (2000-04, serving as Vice-Chair 2001-04), Congregational Excellence Team Chairperson (2009-11), Board of Ordained Ministry (2012-16), and Congregational Vitality Team (2016-18).

The Western North Carolina Conference is blessed to have the leadership and ministry of the Rev. Dr. Nancy Rankin.

Be sure to read the other biographies written by WNCC Archivist & Historian Jim Pyatt:

Roberta Blackwell, served in the Charlotte District were as District Director of Church and Society 1979-84, member of the District Committee on the District Superintendent 1980-93, and as a member of the Charlotte District Trustees 2010-12.

Rev. Dr. Arnetta E. Beverly, the first African-American woman to serve as Director of Nurture and Ethnic Ministries, to serve as a District Superintendent in the WNC Conference, and to serve as a Director of Connectional Ministries in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.

Rev. Dr. James Walter Ferree, Sr., involved in realigning the North Carolina-Virginia Conference into what is now the three separate North Carolina, Western North Carolina, and Virginia Conferences.

Rev. Cecil Harvey Marcellus, Jr., the first African-American elected to the Reidsville City Council, where he served for three full terms and part of a fourth term.

Dr. David Dallas Jones, the president of Bennett College from 1926-1955.

Rev. William Hornbuckle, a Native American ordained Deacon in 1928 and Elder in 1931.

Daphine Strickland, part of the Task Force that led to the organization of Triad Native American Church, the first Native American congregation in our Conference outside of Cherokee.

Thomas Queen, the Director of the Cherokee Mission from 1973 until his death in 1992.

Jeremiah Wolfe, the first Native American to be elected a delegate to General Conference from the WNCC in 1976.

Rev. David Ortigoza, the Director of Hispanic and Latino Ministries for the SEJ in 2003.

Rev. Diana Wingeier-Rayo, the first Hispanic/Latina woman to be received into full clergy membership in the WNC Conference.

Raul Adriano, the first known person of Hispanic/Latino heritage to be elected by The WNCC to serve as a Lay Delegate to General Conference.

Rev. Carlos Alberto Rodriguez, a key figure at the Board of Missions Office of The WNCC in 1961.

Rev. Dr. Abraham Kim, the first Asian-American to be elected as a clergy delegate to Jurisdictional Conference from the WNC Conference.

Rev. Karen Miyoshi Kagiyama, the first Asian-American women to be ordained an Elder in the WNCC.

In Muk Kim, the first Asian-American to be elected as a delegate (clergy or lay) to Jurisdictional Conference from the WNC Conference.

Rev. M. B. Lee McCrary, the first woman to become a full clergy member of the Western North Carolina Conference. 

Rev. Dolores Barus Queen, the first woman to serve as District Superintendent in the Western NC Conference.

Bishop Charlene P. Kammerer, the first (and to date, the only) woman to serve as Bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference.

Mrs. Jettie Morrison, a key figure in the Women's Society of Christian Service and the integration of The United Methodist Church in 1968.

Bishop L. Scott Allen (May 4, 1918-September 18, 2004), the first (and to date, the only) African-American to serve as Bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference.

Mrs. Effie Miller (September 17, 1930-September 1, 2008), a leader in the Western North Carolina Conference and the United Methodist Church, especially with regard to the United Methodist Women.

The Rev. Dr. J. C. Peters (July 10, 1925- July 2, 1998)the first African-American to serve as a District Superintendent in the Western North Carolina Conference.

Mr. Clarence Winchester,  a leader in the North Carolina Conference (Central Jurisdiction) and in the WNC Conference.

Dr. Isaac Miller (September 26, 1920-November 1, 2008), a leader in Higher Education and in the United Methodist Church.

#BeUMC Personal Reflections