Celebrating Black History Month in the WNCC: Bishop L. Scott Allen
February 10, 2022
By: Jim Pyatt, WNCC Archivist & Historian
BISHOP L. SCOTT ALLEN (May 4, 1918 - September 18, 2004)
Bishop L. Scott Allen was the first (and to date, the only) African-American to serve as Bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference, serving as our Bishop from 1976-84. He was the last person elected to the Episcopacy in the Central Jurisdiction (on August 18, 1967) and was the first African-American to serve as a Bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction (beginning in 1968). Bishop Allen was a graduate of Clark University, Gammon Theological Seminary, and Northwestern University. Prior to his election to the episcopacy, he served as a pastor in Atlanta, Covington, Fairburn, and Savannah (from 1939-49), then served as Editor of the Central Christian Advocate from 1949-67.
As an Episcopal leader, Bishop Allen sought to know his pastors and his churches. During his first few months as Bishop of the WNC Conference, he visited every clergy family in their home. During his tenure as Bishop in the WNC Conference, he sought opportunities to preach in as many churches as he could. No congregation was too large, no congregation was too small, no congregation was too far away for him to go and preach there.
Bishop Allen was also a student of the Discipline and church law. When he needed to provide a ruling on a matter, he did so matter-of-factly.
As Bishop Lawrence McCleskey said at Bishop Allen’s memorial service: “He modeled for us consistency, fairness, and reliability in the Episcopal office. You could count on what he told you. . . . His integrity was above reproach. His self-assurance was exemplary. His consistency was unwavering.”
Bishop Allen served the larger UMC at various times as President of the SEJ Council on Ministries, President of the General Commission on Archives and History, President of the General Commission on Religion and Race, President of the World Division of the Board of Global Ministries, Chair of the Board at Gammon Theological Seminary, Vice-President of the Trustees of Lake Junaluska Assembly, and as a member of numerous boards and agencies. In retirement, Bishop Allen served as Interim President and as a Professor of Polity at Gammon Theological Seminary, and as a pastor in the Atlanta area.
Bishop McCleskey sums up the significance of Bishop Allen’s ministry when he said: “He had witnessed the end of legal segregation in America. He had been involved in the structural end of racial segregation in this church he loved. And he had been observer, participant, and spiritual and temporal leader in urging and guiding the UMC to live into what we had declared ourselves to be in structure.”
Be sure to read the other biographies written by WNCC Archivist & Historian Jim Pyatt:
Mrs. Effie Miller, a leader in the Western North Carolina Conference and the United Methodist Church, especially with regard to the United Methodist Women.
The Rev. 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, overseeing the Winston-Salem/Forsyth District from 1968-74.
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.
Rev. Sophia Joyce East (January 25, 1906-May 4, 1996), the first African-American woman to serve as a pastor in the WNC Conference.