Gilmore, Marshall 1931–
Marshall Gilmore 1931–
Minister, religious leader
As Presiding Bishop of the Dallas-based Eighth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, Marshall Gilmore is a top leader in one of the largest African-American denominations in the United States. That position of leadership has encompassed more than simply overseeing what goes on within the walls of CME churches. Bishop Gilmore has been a leading voice on several social issues, a liaison between the church and the promoters of outside social programs, and a key figure in ongoing attempts to foster cooperation between the CME Church and other Methodist denominations, both historically black and predominantly white. In light of these varied activities, Ebony magazine named Bishop Gilmore to its list of 100-plus Most Influential Black Americans in 2003.
Marshall Gilmore was born on January 4, 1931, in Hoffman, North Carolina, and was raised in the local Pleasant Hill CME Church. After graduating from West Southern Pines High School in 1949, he entered the U.S. Air Force and served for four years, reaching the rank of airman 1-C. Toward the end of his stint in military service, Gilmore felt the call to preach and was licensed by Pleasant Hill CME as an exhorter in September of 1953, and then as a preacher on January 2, 1954. That fall, Gilmore entered the Methodist-affiliated Paine College in Augusta, Georgia. Attending summer school at Paine and at several other area schools, Gilmore finished his B.A. degree a year early and graduated in 1957.
By that time, Gilmore had already been an ordained CME deacon for two years and had been assigned as pastor of the Hudson Memorial CME Church in Augusta. Later he became pastor of Atlanta’s West Mitchell CME Church. Ordained a CME Elder in 1956, he enrolled at the Theological School of Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, in 1957, receiving his Master of Divinity degree in 1960. He moved on to preach and lead churches in Illinois and Michigan before entering the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, where he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree in 1974. While in Dayton, Gilmore was the pastor of Phillips Temple CME Church, where he stimulated fundraising that permitted the construction of a new parsonage and paid off its mortgage. He also served as leader of the Dayton chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His educational credentials have been rounded out by several honorary degrees.
In 1982, at the church’s general conference in Memphis, Gilmore became the 41st Bishop of the CME Church. That year, he became Presiding Bishop of the church’s Fourth District, covering churches in Louisiana and Mississippi. Gilmore has served on a host of church committees and administrative bodies, including the departments of Evangelism and Personnel Services, both of which he chaired. He is the author of several books and pamphlets, including Discipleship in Principle and in Practice, The Local Church, its
At a Glance…
Born on January 4, 1931, in Hoffman, NC; married, wife’s name Yvonne; children: Rev. John Marshall Gilmore, Joan M. Gilmore. Education: Paine College, August, GA, BA, 1957; Drew Theological Seminary, Madison, NJ., Master of Divinity, 1960; United Theological Seminary, Dayton, OH, Doctor of Divinity, 1974. Military Service: U.S. Air Force, 1950-54.
Career: Hudson Memorial CME Church, Augusta, GA, pastor, late 1950s; Bray Temple DME Church, Chicago, IL, pastor, 1960-62; West Mitchell Street CME Church, Atlanta, pastor, 1962; Allen Temple CME Church, Detroit, Ml, pastor, 1962-64; Phillips Temple CME Church, Dayton, OH, pastor, 1964-1970s; CME Church, named Bishop, 1982; CME Church Fourth District, Presiding Bishop, 1982-94; CME Church Eighth District, Presiding Bishop, 1994-.
Selected memberships: Texas College, board of trustees; Paine College, board of trustees.
Selected awards: Honorary doctoral degrees from Texas College, Interdenominational Theological Center, and Paine College.
Address: Office —1616 Illinois Ave., Dallas, TX 75224. Web —www.c-m-e.org/core/bios/Bishop_Gilmore.htm.
Pastor, Officers and Their Ministries, A Larger Catechism: For Members of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and Pulpit and Pew.
In 1994, Gilmore was given the assignment of Bishop of the Eighth District, overseeing 313 churches in Texas. Interviewed by the Dallas Morning News, Gilmore was philosophical about the challenges of administration. “When I was pastoring one church, I always had problems I could solve,” he said. “I’ve felt as a bishop that I’ve had to live with some problems…. But it keeps you really trying to find ways to improve your own capacity for resolving issues and working with people.” In the bosom of his own church, Gilmore (as quoted on the CME church’s Web site) was more emotional. It was only to an “accident,” he said, that he owed his high-flying church career—to his having been elected bishop first in his class in 1982. Since then, he said, God “allowed my golden moments to roll on. He has kept me clothed and in my right mind. I know I have no reason to think more highly of myself.”
Gilmore’s activities as bishop have gone far beyond pastoral issues. As chairman of the CME Community Development Corporation (CMECDC), he joined with the giant home mortgage finance source Fannie Mae to expand home ownership opportunities among African Americans. “Homeownership is the cornerstone of long-term financial security,” Gilmore stated in a Fannie Mae news release announcing the start of a pilot program covering the greater Memphis, Tennessee, area. “The CMECDC is dedicated to helping families who have been eagerly waiting for the opportunity to own their own homes, to raise their children in a safe environment, and build a solid future.” The CMECDC under Gilmore’s leadership provided homebuyer education programs and financial counseling, referring potential homebuyers to partner banks that in turn offered low-cost loan programs.
Another issue that occupied Gilmore’s time was a much-discussed potential merger of the CME Church with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion) Church. Both denominations were founded when black congregations split off from white-dominated Methodist churches as a result of discriminatory treatment, and they shared some features of their liturgy (religious rites). Gilmore pointed to the benefits of such a merger for denominations whose churches were often located in small towns and duplicated their evangelical and educational efforts. Discussions leading to a possible 2008 merger were set for the 2006 AME Zion general meeting.
Gilmore also was involved with CME groups investigating a possible rapprochement with predominantly white Methodist congregations. Among white Methodists, the ideas of repentance and atonement for the denomination’s historical treatment of African American worshippers were gaining currency. In 2003 Gilmore addressed a South Indiana Methodist Annual Conference covered by the Methodist Reporter Interactive Web site. “God desires unity and oneness,” he told the group. “We are willing to seek the common path within the Methodist family, striving for oneness in the future.”
Though much of Gilmore’s energy was devoted to church matters, he spoke out on wider social issues as well. He campaigned against the bid of former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke to become governor of Louisiana in 1991, and in 2002 he was one of 51 signatories, from various faiths, to a letter urging President George W. Bush to reconsider his plans to invade Iraq. On another contentious issue, Gilmore raised eyebrows by using the pronoun “She” to refer to God in a 2002 sermon.
Bishop Gilmore is married to the former Yvonne Dukes. The couple has two adult children and two grandchildren. Gilmore’s son, the Rev. John Marshall Gilmore, has served as pastor of the Mount Olive Cathedral CME Church in Memphis.
Discipleship in Principle and in Practice, CME Church, 1993.
(With others) Discipleship: Creation, Covenant, Community, CME Church, 1994.
The Local Church, its Pastor, Officers and Their Ministries, CME Church, 1995.
A Larger Catechism: For Members of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, CME Church, 1995.
Pulpit and Pew, CME Church, 1997.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 4, 2002, p. B4.
Dallas Morning News, December 17, 1994, p. G1.
Dayton Daily News, May 17, 1995, p. Z.7.1.
Ebony, May 2003.
Forerunner, June 2002.
Philadelphia Tribune, December 13, 1991, p. C7.
Washington Post, July 13, 2002, p. B9.
“Conferences Repent of Past Racism,” Reporter Interactive, www.reporterinteractive.org/news/062503/repent.htm (June 17, 2004).
“51 Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical Leaders Petition President Bush to Reconsider Iraq Invasion,” NEWS from the National Council of Churches, www.ncccusa.org/news/02news83.html (June 17, 2004).
“News Release,” Fannie Mae, www.fanniemae.com/newsreleases/2002/1758.jhtml (June 17, 2004).
“Senior Bishop Marshall Gilmore,” Christian Methodist Episcopal Church College of Bishops, www.c-m-e.org/core/bios/Bishop_Gilmore.htm (June 17, 2004).
—James M. Manheim
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