Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
Donna Novak Coles Georgia Women's Movement Archives
Born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1944, Adams spent much of her childhood in Meridian, Mississippi. She entered Emory University in 1962 and graduated with a degree in English in 1966. During her senior year at Emory she married her classmate Alfred B. Adams III. Her husband attended Emory Law School and the couple had two children (1968 and 1970). After a few years of teaching at Grady High School in Atlanta, Adams entered Columbia Theological Seminary, graduating with honors in 1979. In the same year, she became Associate Pastor and Minister at Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta. She held this position until 1986, when she took over as pastor of North Decatur Presbyterian Church in Decatur, GA. In 1991, Reverend Adams was appointed Senior Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in northwest Atlanta, becoming the only women to hold this position in a parish of this size in the United States. She held the position for ten years. After serving as the Co-Pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, she returned to the Atlanta area in 2003. Author of numerous articles and sermons, Adams has served in leadership positions on several church and community boards, including Columbia Theological Seminary and Agnes Scott College.
Abstract of the full interview
The granddaughter and great granddaughter of ministers, Adams describes her love of God from a very early age, saying that one of her favorite childhood games was "preaching." She believed, however, "that one had to choose either motherhood and marriage, or service to God. You had to go one way or the other." Adams did go on to be both a wife and mother and also was a minister. She discusses the history of women in the Presbyterian Church, and how that has affected her expectations. She also talks about the Equal Rights Amendment and how natural it was for her, as a Christian, to support it. Adams describes the pivotal role her church (Central Presbyterian) played in establishing homeless shelters in downtown Atlanta during the 1987 crisis in homelessness. She goes on to describe how, in 1991, she took over as Senior Pastor for Trinity Presbyterian Church, becoming the first woman in the United States to be in charge of a church of that size. Adams talks about her experiences there, and the importance of women leading in large parishes, stating that although women have come a long way in the Presbyterian Church, there is still in fact a "stained glass ceiling." "And when I think how much simpler my life would have been if I had just belonged to the book club, but I did know that I had a purpose."
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Citation of the full interview
Rev. Joanna Moseley Adams oral history interview, Georgia Women's Movement Oral History Project, W008, Donna Novak Coles Georgia Women's Movement Archives, Special Collections and Archives, University Library, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Ga.
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