Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

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Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Origin1870; 154 years ago (1870)
Jackson, Tennessee
Separated fromMethodist Episcopal Church, South

The Christian Methodist Episcopal (C.M.E.) Church is a historically black denomination that branched from earlier Methodist groups in the United States. It is considered to be a mainline denomination. The CME Church was organized on December 16, 1870, in Jackson, Tennessee, by 41 former enslaved congregants with the full support of their white sponsors in their former Methodist Episcopal Church, South who met to form an organization that would allow them to establish and maintain their own polity.[1] They ordained their own bishops and ministers without their being officially endorsed or appointed by the white-dominated body. They called this fellowship the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America, which it remained until their successors adopted the current name in 1954.[2] The Christian Methodist Episcopal today has a church membership of people from all racial backgrounds. It adheres to Wesleyan-Arminian theology.

Chalk Level C.M.E. Church in Harnett County, North Carolina


In the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, bishops are the Chief Officers and are elected by "delegate" votes for life until the age of 74, when he/she must retire. Among their duties are the responsibilities of appointing clergy to serve in local churches as pastors, performing ordinations, and safeguarding the doctrines and discipline of the Church. The General Conference, held every four years, comprises an equal number of clergy and lay delegates and is when a bishop can be elected. In each Annual Conference, CME bishops serve for four-year terms. CME Church bishops may be male or female.

In 2006, there were an estimated 850,000 members in 3,500 churches.[3] As of 2021, the CME Church has grown to more than 1.5 million members across the United States with mission and sister churches in Haiti, Jamaica and fourteen African nations.[1]

Religious beliefs[edit]

The foundational doctrines of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church are found in what is commonly referred to in Wesleyan Methodism as The Articles of Religion. The Articles of Religion were derived from the Church of England and abridged by John Wesley, Founder of Methodism, for Methodists in America in 1784.

Hymnal and responsive readings[edit]

Sunday worship services in the CME denomination commonly include a Responsive Reading from scripture. A leader reads a line of scripture and the congregation reads a response. Bible passages are not arranged by topic; responsive readings are. Often, a single responsive reading consists of excerpts from several Bible passages.

The CME Responsive Readings are published in The Hymnal of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Items 1–545 are songs, and items 546–604 are Responsive Readings. The official Responsive Readings are from the King James Version of the Bible.

CME connectional emblem[edit]

CME Connectional Emblem

The official logo or symbol of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church was originally authorized by Bishop B. Julian Smith for the Centennial General Conference held in Memphis, 1970. It was officially adopted by the General Conference in 1974 as the denomination's connectional marker.

Designed by Will E. Chambers, the logo shows the place of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in the rapidly changing urbanized society and its relation to God's people. The logo is composed of:

The World Globe which represents the vineyard of God;
The Skyline which stands for the Church's concern for human and urban problems and people's alienation from God and one another;
The Weather Vane which symbolizes the need of the Church to be flexible in terms of meeting the contemporary needs of people; and,
The Cross which denotes, by its vertical bar, the need for a proper relationship between people and God, and by its horizontal bar, the need for proper relationships between people. The total Cross is a sign of the final-assured victory through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Ecumenical activity[edit]

Since the early 20th century the CME Church has explored the possibility of merging with other African American Methodist churches that are very similar in doctrine and practice.

In 1918 representatives of the CME Church, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion) Church met in Birmingham, Alabama where they agreed to propose a merger. This "Birmingham Plan" was approved by the CME General Conference but did not win enough support in the annual conferences.[4]

in the late 20th century, the CME Church engaged in new talks with the AME Zion Church on a merger, with CME General Conference delegates approving a union in principle in 1986, and AME Zion delegates giving the same approval in 1988. Bishops of each church reopened the question in 1999, adopting a timeline for an eventual merger.[4]

In May 2012, The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church entered into full communion with the United Methodist Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, African Union Methodist Protestant Church, African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Union American Methodist Episcopal Church. These Churches agreed to "recognize each other's churches, share sacraments, and affirm their clergy and ministries."[5]

Notable bishops[edit]

  • 1st Bishop William H. Miles (1828- 1892)
  • 2nd Bishop Richard H. Vanderhorst (1813-1872)
  • 3rd Bishop Joseph A. Beebe (1832-1902)
  • 4th Bishop Lucius Henry Holsey, D. D. (1842-1920)
  • 5th Bishop Isaac Lane, D. D. (1834–1937)
  • 6th Bishop Robert S. Williams, D. D. (1858-1832)
  • 7th Bishop Elijah Cottrell, D. D. (1853-1937)
  • 8th Bishop Charles Henry Phillips, D.D. (1858-1951)
  • 59th Bishop Teresa E. Jefferson-Snorton (1st woman bishop) (1955-)
  • Bishop Denise Anders-Modest (2nd woman bishop)

The church elected the first woman bishop in 2010. In 2022, the church elected its second woman bishop. In addition, Jefferson-Snorton became the "first woman to give the episcopal address" during the quadrennial General Conference.[6]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Information About the CME Church". Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  2. ^ "Christian Methodist Episcopal Church |". Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  3. ^ "2008 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches". The National Council of Churches. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  4. ^ a b "Two black Methodist denominations moving toward union". Nashville, TN, USA: Worldwide Faith News. United Methodist News Service. May 16, 2000. Archived from the original on March 4, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-18.
  5. ^ Banks, Adelle M. (7 May 2012). "Methodists Reach Across Historic Racial Boundaries with Communion Pact". Christianity Today. Archived from the original on 26 June 2012. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  6. ^ "Christian Methodist Episcopal Church elects second woman and African bishops". Religion News Service. 2022-07-01. Retrieved 2022-07-06.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bailey, Kenneth. "The Post-Civil War Racial Separations in Southern Protestantism," Church History (1977) 46#4 pp 453–73
  • Gravely, William B. " The Social, Political and Religious Significance of the Foundation of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (1870)," Methodist History (1979) 18:3-25
  • Pettigrew, M. C. From Miles to Johnson: One Hundred Years of Progress, 1870-1970 (Memphis: CME Church Publishing House, 1970)
  • Phillips, Charles Henry. From the Farm to the Bishopric: An Autobiography (1932) excerpt
  • Phillips, Charles Henry (1898). The History of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America: Comprising Its Organization, Subsequent Development, and Present Status. Publishing House C.M.E. Church., reprinted Arno 1972; an official history
  • Sommerville, Raymond R. An Ex-colored Church: Social Activism in the CME Church, 1870-1970 (Mercer University Press, 2004)
  • Spragin, Rev. Dr. Ore. The History of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church 1870-2009 (Wyndham Hall Press, 2011) 304pp

External links[edit]