538 Dr. M. L. King, Jr. Ave. | Memphis, TN 38126 | (901) 527-8292
Mt. Olive Cathedral C.M.E. Church
The Roots and History of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
The name “Methodist” was first given to four students at the University of Oxford, among them were John and Charles Wesley, who in November 1729 began to meet together regularly in a “Holy Club” for study, prayer and communion. About ten years later, after the Wesleys had become famous preachers and their movement was spreading, the name was revived, and those who followed them were called Methodists. John Wesley’s experience, as referred to by others, was the determinative factor in the rise of Methodism and the evangelistic revival. Thus Methodism was born.
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. 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, the passage of time and the emancipation of blacks from slavery created the desire by blacks to have and control their own church. The desire led formerly enslaved people who had been members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South to start their own independent religious organization.
On December 16, 1870, forty-one men gathered in Jackson, Tennessee. With the advice and assistance of the white brethren of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, these black religious leaders organized the colored branch of Methodism.
In 1954, the church changed its name from Colored Methodist Episcopal to Christian Methodist Episcopal.
1881: Mt. Olive was founded in 1881 by Reverend G. W. Armour and it became an official part of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. While there is no exact reference to verify that the name was given at that time, there is indication that nine members officially organized and adopted the name. Mt. Olive started in the Jug Factory on the corner of South Orleans Street and Georgia Avenue where Reverend Armour was an employee. Because of his loyalty to the company, he was afforded the privilege to worship in the building on Sundays. The first service conducted was Sunday school. He gathered “little children” in the community to tell them about the love of Jesus. The children became so excited about Sunday school that they were able to get their parents to attend as well. The enthusiasm and excitement of the parents led Pastor Armor to start an eleven o’clock service.
1886: Mt. Olive was admitted into the Conference with a membership of 15 and the first pastor assigned was Reverend Charles T. Tyus. As the membership grew, the church had to move. They paid $2.50 per month for rent and, in spite of the small amount, the congregation was often threatened with eviction for non-payment. The financial assistance they received from the Conference made it possible for them to purchase a lot on 602 E. Georgia Avenue and build a frame church.
1905: Under the leadership of Reverend G. H. Harlee, the congregation built a beautiful brick structure with a pipe organ that replaced the frame building in 1905.
The move to the current location was made possible by Reverend W. A. Johnson, who was a great visionary and dynamic leader. Part of his vision was for the church to be a meeting place for any community activity whose basic objective was socio-economic. His vision was fulfilled by his successors as Mt. Olive served was the “meeting place” for numerous movements. Unfortunately, Reverend Johnson died before the church moved to present location.
1952: Reverend P. E. Brooks led the congregation to 538 Dr. M L King Jr. Avenue (formerly known as Linden Avenue) in 1952.
1955: An extensive makeover of the sanctuary was completed under the leadership of Reverend Henry C. Bunton.
Former Pastors of Mt. Olive Cathedral C.M.E. Church
(Dates of Record)
(No Dates of Record)
1940-1950 Rev. W. A. Johnson
1950-1953 Rev. Phillip E. Brooks
1953-1962 Rev. Henry C. Bunton
1962-1974 Rev. T. C. Lightfoot, Jr.
1974-1982 Rev. Nehemiah Mitchum
1982-1986 Rev. Alex A. Chambers
1986-1991 Rev. Julius L. Scipio
1991-1994 Rev. Jerry L. Christian
1994-2001 Rev. John Marshal Gilmore
2001-2007 Rev. Stevey M. Wilburn, Sr.
2007-2012 Rev. Ronald Williams
2012-2014 Rev. Charlton L. Johnson
Aug. 3, 2014 Rev. Peris J. Lester, I
Rev. G. W. Armour
Rev. Charles T. Tyus
Rev. G. A. Griffin
Rev. T. H. Nichols
Rev. H. Thompson
Rev. W. W. Sevier
Rev. L. H. Portlock
Rev. C. A. Leftwich
Rev. J. C. Martin
Rev. G. H. Harlee
Rev. A. N. Stevens
Rev. E. F. B. Amos
Rev. W. P. Greer
Rev. J. H. Coleman
Rev. T. J. Moppins
Rev. J. M. Rivers
Rev. N. T. Walker
Rev. R. L. Langston
Rev. W. Y. Bell
Rev. W. A. Baskerville
Rev. J. B. Boyd
Rev. A. L. Kimbrough
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by Mt. Olive Cathedral C.M.E. Church
For more information contact us at:
Mt. Olive Cathedral C.M.E. Church
538 Dr. M. L. King, Jr. Ave.
Memphis, TN 38126 | (901) 527-8292