|In an effort to prepare to cultivate the Program of the
Church, one should acquaint himself with the history of the Church as well
as the department which is to be cultivated. Thus to cultivate the
Publishing Department of the C.M.E. Church, one should not only know
something of the origin of the C.M.E. Church, but should keep in mind the
great purpose for which the Church was organized. Then we might ask
ourselves these questions: Why the Church? What is its
purpose? What can be done to help the Church accomplish its purpose
and high aim?
To cultivate the Church into an effective institution, all of its departments must be cultivated. No chain is stronger than its weakest link, no Church is stronger than its weakest department.
Thinking of the areas of the Publishing Department that need cultivation, one is urged on by that thought of the wonderful heritage that is ours to cherish. One is appreciative of the opportunity to browse through the worn and dusty pages of the many old publications now found in the C. M. E. Church Historical Library, made possible by L. J. Scurlock, who served as its first Publishing Agent from December 21, 1870 to January 1872.
The C.M.E. Church from its infancy has been interested in the advancement of the cause of Christianity by disseminating religious knowledge and useful literary and scientific information in the form of books, tracks, and periodicals.
In December, 1870 only hours after the birth of the Denomination, in the First Methodist Church, Jackson, Tennessee, action was taken which started the first Book House in Memphis, Tennessee. The term Book Store was used because it best described the function of the establishment. Not having the facilities to print and bind books, the function of the Book House was to provide a central place for the Denomination to secure books published by other establishments.
As the years passed, interest and concern for the enlightenment of the C.M.E. constituency grew. In 1873, at a called session of the General Conference in Augusta, Georgia, two urgent items appeared in the agenda: (1) The election of a Bishop or Bishops to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Bishop R. H. Vanderhost. (2) To devise plans to increase the output and usefulness of the Publishing House.
Bishop W. H. Miles, the first Bishop of the C.M.E. Church, addressing that session, said: "Our Publishing interests demand your careful examination. Without specific advice, I suggest that they ought to be permanently located, judiciously manned and some plan devised for the more liberal patronage of the Christian Index and the Discipline. These things are important, not only for the sake of financial results, but for the advancement of our people in intelligence and in Christian morals, for the right training of young people, and to put to silence the reproach of our enemies. We must become a reading people if we would acquire influence, overcome opposition, and maintain ourselves respectably among the churches of the land."
To this end we worked until in later years it was possible to hear another C.M.E. Bishop say: "The Connection has, at last a place and house it can call home --Jackson, Tennessee."
The Publishing Department is the oldest Department of the church. The founding fathers fully realized that if an institution is to be well founded and self sustaining, it must be able to make a contribution to its own growth by creating environments from which it can draw resources. This is especially true of a Church whose responsibility it is to propagate its faith, tradition and tenets. There is only one channel through which this can be done effectively --a denominational publishing department. Wherever the Publishing House is located, it is headquarters for the denomination. The function of the Publishing Department is:
A record of the faithful should be among the chief historical documents in the publishing house of the church. The Publishing House has the never-ending task of safeguarding the doctrine and indoctrination of the church through the printed page. The cultivation of the church's program is also a part of the work of the Publishing Department.
Those who have served as General Secretary of Publication Services (Publishing Agent):
Roderick D. Lewis, Sr., General Secretary of Publication Services