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Richards, Emma | Mennonite Archival Commons

Name: Richards, Emma

Historical Note:

Emma Richards was born in the late 1920s near Kokomo, Indiana.  She earned a B.A.  from Goshen College and a bachelor of theology from Goshen Biblical Seminary.  She taught speech at Bluffton College and served twelve years as a missionary in Japan with her husband, Joe Richards.

After their missionary service, Emma and Joe Richards moved to Lombard, Illinois.  Joe Richards served not only as a full time pastor to Lombard Mennonite Church, but also worked as an elementary educator.  When he was appointed principal of Glen Ellyn Elementary School, he could no longer serve as full-time pastor.  Several members of the Lombard Mennonite Church congregation petitioned the church council to consider licensing and ordaining Emma Richards to serve as co-pastor.

The Lombard Mennonite Church congregation supported unanimously a motion to make Emma Richards co-pastor.   The Lombard Mennonite Church then notified the Illinois Mennonite Conference of its actions, setting into motion a discernment process regarding the ordination of women.

In June 1973, Emma Richards was ordained to the Christian Ministry, thereby becoming the first woman ordained in the Mennonite Church and in the General Conference Mennonite Church.  

In 1991, Emma and Joe Richards left Lombard Mennonite Church and served as interim conference ministers for the Illinois Conference. They retired to Goshen, Indiana in 1996.

Sources: Emma Richards Papers, 1959-2004.  HM1-970.  Box 1, Folder 1.  Mennonite Church USA Archives - Goshen.  Goshen, Indiana.

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