Bishop Ronald M. Cunningham was elected July 3, 2002, as the 53rd Bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. At the 2010 General Conference held in Mobile, Alabama, Bishop Cunningham was honorably retired. On March 15, 2011 (after the passing of Bishop W.E. Lockett), Bishop Cunningham was recalled to active service and assigned to the Eleventh Episcopal District. Bishop Cunningham retired officially at the General Conference in 2014.
Bishop Cunningham is a son of the parsonage. He is the son of the late Rev. Bishop David S. Cunningham, who retired as General Secretary of the General Board of Pensions of our Zion. His father was instrumental in giving us our first commercial ministerial retirement program in 1968.
Bishop Cunningham is one of three siblings. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in the parsonages of the St. James CME Church, Freeport, Illinois, Trinity CME Church, Decatur, Illinois, and Scruggs Memorial CME Church, St. Louis, Missouri. In a real sense he is a son of the 3rd Episcopal District, where many stalwart servants of the church nurtured him.
He graduated from Charles Sumner High School, St. Louis, Missouri, the first African American high school founded west of the Mississippi River in 1875. After his high school graduation, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served for 3 years and received an honorary discharge.
Bishop Cunningham says his father taught him how important it is “to make something of yourself.” Therefore, after receiving his military discharge he achieved the following academic pursuits:
· BA Degree – LeMoyne College, Memphis, Tennessee – 1960
· Certificate of Participation – American University, Washington
Semester Student 1959
· Doctor of Religion Degree – School of Theology, Claremont, California
Bishop Cunningham served as General Secretary of Christian Education for 16 years. He was elected on the first ballot in the 1986 General Conference, Birmingham, Alabama.
Prior to his election, Bishop Cunningham served the CME Church in several meaningful capacities. To name a few:
Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Lane College, Jackson, Tennessee – 1970-84
Chairman of Social Science Division
Director of Continuing Education for Black Church Leadership, Lane College and First Episcopal District; 1979-1984
Dean of the 1st Episcopal District Ecumenical Ministers and Layman’s Institute–1979-84
Administrative Assistant to the General Secretary of Evangelism – 1982-86
Vice President, Miles College, Birmingham, Alabama -1984-86
Interim President of Texas College, Tyler, Texas – Summer/Fall 1994
Bishop Cunningham accepted his call to preach in 1961 and was licensed to preach in February 1962. He has pastured the following Churches:
· Amos CME – Riverside, California
· Parker Chapel & Mount Pleasant – (Milan Circuit) Gibson
· Dyer CME – Dyer, Tennessee
· Johnson Temple – McKenzie, Tennessee
· Mother Liberty – Jackson, Tennessee
· Shady Grove – Fairfield, Alabama
· Phillips Chapel, Milan Tennessee
· Taylor Chapel, German Town, Tennessee
· Leslie Temple, Tuscumbia, Alabama
Bishop Cunningham was the first coordinator of the Annual CME Convocation 1987-90. He brought the Convocation from concept to reality. In 2000 he was chosen to serve as the 2001 Director of the Convocation, which took place at the Opryland Hotel, Nashville, TN. He even served as coordinator of the 2002 Convocation after he was elected to the office of Bishop.
As General Secretary of Christian Education, he coordinated four National Youth and Young Adult Conferences, with the last one taking place in Greensboro, North Carolina, where more than 5,000 persons were in attendance. He has been in the ministry since 1961.
In community and civic affairs Bishop Cunningham served as a student organizer during the “sit ins” of the late 50s early 60s. During the summer of 1976 he served as West Coast Regional Director of Operation PUSH. He also organized a PUSH chapter in Jackson, TN, and served as Political Action Chairman of the Jackson-Madison County Chapter of the NAACP.
Bishop Cunningham was the developer and writer of our denomination’s discipleship program titled Discipleship 2000, which guided us toward a more intentional and dedicated approach to discipleship. He served as the editor of our Church School publication, The Discovery series. He is the author and compiler of numerous manuals and handbooks for Christian education.
For 16 years he served on the Boards of Lane, Paine, and Miles Colleges, and Phillips School of Theology. Presently, he is the new Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Texas College.
He served as Chairman of the National Church Advisory Council of the American Bible Society, and for nine years he served as a member of the Executive Committee of Bread for the World, an International Christian Anti-hunger organization.
He was also appointed to serve as Ecumenical Bishop, a position which he presently holds.
Following his election to the office of Bishop he was appointed to serve as the Presiding Bishop of the Tenth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Bishop Cunningham served as presiding prelate of the Eighth Episcopal District, the state of Texas, from July 2006 through July 4, 2010. At the General Conference in 2010, Bishop Marshall Cunningham was honorably retired.
Bishop Cunningham is a member of the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches USA. He heads the CME delegation to the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches. He is a member of the Executive Committees of Church World Service, the Pan Methodist Commission, and he is Vice Chairman of the Coordinating Council of Churches Uniting In Christ (CUIC). He is a member of the World Council of Churches ecumenical officers team. He is a member of the executive committee of the North American Section of the World Council of Churches.
He also represents the CME Church as a member of the Board of Global Ministry of the United Methodist Church.
In the Fall of 2006, Bishop Cunningham joined with leaders of eight major African American denominations on a Church World Service sponsored trip to Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan to participate in a Christian, Jewish, Muslim dialogue, seeking peace and understanding in the Middle East.
Bishop Cunningham is married to Clarice Flake Cunningham and they are parents of Bridgette, a Magna Cum Laude Pre-Med 2005 and 2007 Graduate of FAMU, earning a BS degree in Pre Med, and a MS degree in Public Health-Epidemiology.
Bishop Cunningham’s vision for future of our Zion involves the following:
through our Amazon Partnership
Bishop Ronald M. Cunningham
Address: 200 Big Bend Drive
Desoto, TX 75115