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A Storied Witness


Much can be learned from Zilpha Elaw, Julia Foote and Sojourner Truth. How to learn it is a bit challenging, though. These Black women preachers had a theology that was not taught in seminaries. That drove Rev. Dr. Kate Hanch of First UMC St. Charles to write Storied Witness. 

“The voices of Black women have historically been silenced, especially in theological and religious contexts,” Hanch stated in the book description. “Prophets rarely have platforms; faithfulness to oneself, one’s community, and one’s God does not often lead to prestige.”

The 200-page book was published last year by Fortress Press. Hanch acknowledges that it may seem odd to have a White woman who is serving as associate pastor of a suburban church to be writing a book about Black women pastors, but she doesn’t let that discourage her from the work to be done in sharing their story. 

“They inspire me, they convict me and they encourage me when I despair,” she stated in the book's preface. “They present theologies that are deeply biblical and emphasize social justice, resisting 21st century binaries we cannot seem to shake. More White people like me need to hear their stories, take their words seriously and be amazed by their visions.”

Nineteenth-century Black women preachers are not usually presented in systematic theology classes or texts and not often cited in sermons for their biblical interpretations, nor are they taught in church history courses. That shortcoming bothered Hanch; She believes all can benefit from their liberating view of God and love for self and neighbor despite circumstances that would destroy them or relegate them and their ideas to the margins. 

Storied Witness was born out of Hanch’s dissertation for her Ph.D. at Garrett Seminary. Since the book's publication in 2022, Hanch has spoken at three seminaries and the American Academy of Religion. She has also told the story of the three women in an article published in Christianity Today. 

Hanch has prepared a study guide for churches that would like to use the book as a small group study. The study guide can be downloaded for free from the Missouri Conference website in the resource library at