Dr. Nancy Burgin Rankin
While the corporate glass ceiling is close to shattered, the stained glass ceiling has taken longer to crack. Finally, though, it’s not uncommon to see a woman wearing a robe at church these days, and we don’t mean choir robes. We spoke with seven of Charlotte’s female religious leaders to find out what they’re doing behind and beyond the pulpit
Written by Lori K. Tate
Photographs by Chris Edwards
Conference Director, Western NC Conference, The United Methodist Church
Dr. Nancy Burgin Rankin, Conference Director, Western NC Conference, The United Methodist Church
Nancy Burgin Rankin initially ran from God's call. Growing up the daughter of a Methodist minister, she knew it wasn't all baptisms and covered dish suppers, and she wanted no part of it. Eventually, though, she answered.
"My calling came straight from God through Christ. I have absolute clarity about that because I know how hard I fought against it," she says. "When it comes to preaching, one of the scriptures I like to use with churches is where Paul says, 'A necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.' It's not like I've got a choice here. It has to come out. When people say a woman shouldn't, couldn't [preach], I'm going, ‘Gosh, just try to stop it.' "
Since being ordained in 1983, she has served at four churches, including 2,200-member University City UMC, where she was the senior pastor for three years. "It's never been easy, but it's always felt right," says the fifty-five-year-old.
For the past four years Rankin has been in charge of congregational development and witness ministries for the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, which governs more than 1,100 churches from Greensboro to the Tennessee border. During the past year, Rankin has been integral in starting four new churches in the conference.
"One of the hardest transitions I've ever made was to give up my pulpit," she says. "I've just always been about how do you reach new people for Christ."
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