First CME Bishop William H. Miles; Graduating class at Paine College, circa 1901; early CME mission church.
CME Beginnings (From Tender Plant to Sturdy Tree)
The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, or the CME Church as it is commonly called, came into existence as a result of the movement from slavery to freedom. During the years following the birth of Methodism, the denomination grew rapidly. The Methodist Episcopal Church South was an outgrowth of Wesley’s Methodism. Some Blacks, converted to Christianity by slave masters, accepted the Methodist doctrine as it was. However, with the passage of time, the emancipation of Blacks from slavery created the desire by Blacks to have and control their own church. This desire led formerly enslaved persons who had been members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, to start their own independent religious organization.
The Organizers: Forty-one men who have exemplified leadership qualities gathered together in Jackson, Tennessee on December 16, 1870. With the advice and assistance of the white brethren of the M.E. Church South, the Black religious leaders organized the colored branch of Methodism. On Tuesday, December 20, they adopted the Methodist South’s Book of Discipline and on Wednesday, December 21, they elected two of their own preachers – William H. Miles of Kentucky and Richard H. Vanderhorst of Georgia – as their bishops. Gathering in Jackson with only a dream, the religious leaders departed with their own church a reality.
In the words of Bishop Randall Albert Carter, “this tender plant of God” had taken root and “was here to live or die.”
(Biblical basis: Psalm 80.)