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Remembering Bishop Isaac Lane Of Methodist Episcopal Church

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Isaac Lane was born on March 4, 1834, in Madison County, Tennessee, five miles from Jackson. Rachel, his mother, was an enslaved person owned by his master and white father, Cullen Lane. Lane was virtually abandoned by his parents and endured many of the harsh realities of slavery, but because of his mixed racial heritage, he was granted privileges not afforded to other enslaved people. The opportunity to attend religious services led by white Methodists was the most important. Christianity became his guiding light, and he fully accepted the faith in his early twenties. His life’s work would be preaching the gospel and educating other African Americans.

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Lane married Frances Ann Boyce, an eighteen-year-old enslaved woman from neighboring Haywood County, about twenty miles west of his plantation, when he was nineteen. They would have eleven children as a result of their marriage. In 1854, he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church and petitioned for a preaching license, which he was denied due to his race. He persisted, and in 1956, white Church officials granted him an exhorter’s license, a step toward ordination as a minister. He remained in this position with the church until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. During the war, the church’s attitude toward black leaders shifted, and he was finally ordained as a pastor in 1865.

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Lane, as an ordained minister, led services for black congregations and, unusual for the time, had many opportunities to preach in front of white Methodists. Opposition to these sermons resulted in the burning of black churches in the area. Despite the attempts to silence him, he remained undeterred. Although he was never formally educated (enslaved people were denied educational opportunities), he learned to read and write through perseverance and hard work. He increased his efforts to educate himself after the Civil War. Lane needed money to support his large family as well. To supplement the money he received from the church, he bought land and grew cotton.

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Bishop Issac Lane Statute (Quintard Taylor Collection)

 

During the Reconstruction Era in 1870, black Methodist Church members gathered in Jackson, Tennessee. They voted to form the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, which is now known as the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Lane rose quickly through the ranks of the church, eventually becoming the 5th Bishop in 1873. Lane used his position in the church to broaden its influence by promoting churches and new clergy. Through these efforts, he and his colleagues saw the need to expand educational opportunities for both clergy and laypeople.

Bishop Lane raised enough money with the help of the church in 1882 to buy four acres of land and erect one building in Jackson, Tennessee. It was originally known as the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church High School before being renamed Lane College.

Bishop Lane’s daughter, Jennie Lane, became the new school’s first teacher and principal, and Bishop Lane’s son, James Franklin Lane, became the college’s president in 1907. Bishop Isaac Lane continued to serve Lane College for the next 37 years.

Bishop Lane retired in 1914 from active ministry but never stopped working for the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church or the college that he had helped establish. Bishop Isaac Lane died on December 5, 1937, in Jackson, Tennessee, at the age of 103.

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Written by How Africa News

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