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Viviane E. Thomas-Breitfeld

The Reverend Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld, the first African American female installed as bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The Reverend Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld, the first African American female installed as bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. | (Photo: Facebook/Bishop Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld)

In 2018, Rev. Viviane E. Thomas-Breitfeld became the first female African American bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church's history in America.

Thomas-Breitfeld was officially made bishop of the ELCA's South-Central Synod of Wisconsin at a service held that August at First Lutheran Church in Janesville.

Her election to the post took place in May 2018, in which she won on the fifth ballot with 224 votes to 150 votes for the Rev. Steven Kottke.

Raised in the ELCA, which is an overwhelmingly white denomination, Thomas-Breitfeld told Living Lutheran in an interview at the time that she found her election "gratifying."

"Probably the thing that has been most gratifying and most humbling is hearing from my sister-pastors and sisters who are in the call process who have been so emotional about this," said Thomas-Breitfeld.

"It gives them a sign of hope. That as they watch me, they can celebrate and say, 'Maybe that can be me, too, one of these days. Maybe things are changing.'"

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