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The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church is a historically black denomination within the broader context of Methodism. The group was organized on December 16, 1870 when several black ministers, with the full support of their white counterparts in the former Methodist Episcopal Church, South, met to form an organization that would allow them to establish and maintain their own polity, that is, to ordain their own bishops and ministers without the necessity of them 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 the 1950s.
In the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, bishops are administrative superintendents of the church; they are elected by "delegate" votes for as many years deemed until the age of 74, when he/she must retire. Among their duties are responsibility for appointing clergy to serve local churches as pastor, for performing ordinations, and for safeguarding the doctrine and discipline of the Church. The General Conference, a meeting every four years, comprises an equal number of clergy and lay delegates. 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.
The Methodist Articles of Religion state the church's primary beliefs.
The C.M.E. Church has set forth a Social Creed.
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.
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 CME church has been in negotiations for many years to merge with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church into a tentatively named Christian Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. The plan was originally for them to unite by 2004, but this has been delayed by the AMEZ church, which, for example, insists on having "African" in the name. The CMEC is very similar in doctrine and practice to that church and to the African Methodist Episcopal Church.