“The Place of God’s Grace”




The origin of our congregation is like any other Black Church in the South following the Emancipation Proclamation. They were a people freed by decree only. Free to go; but, had nowhere to go. They had no names, no property; but, they brought with them two ingredients that became the touchstone of their future.


They had tragic memories of their past, many of their families had been separated by untimely deaths and sold to different parts of the South, never to be rejoined. They also possessed courage through adversity and unwavering faith in the God of the past, present and future continued to sustain and deliver them. As many of these slaves moved from the plantation, they acquired their own little pieces of land which they dedicated to the Glory of God.


In the early 1890's, our church was organized in a little one room house on Jones Street behind Wofford College. Among the CHARTER members were: Mr. Allen Askew, Mr. George Hines, Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Huggins, Mr. & Mrs. David Littlejohn, Mrs. Belle Watson, Mrs. Lizzie Mintz, Mr. & Mrs. Tom Mayfield - and a few years later, they were able to purchase land on Cummings Street and they erected their first building and temporarily the name was Mintz Chapel after the landowner - Mrs. Ann Mintz. Later years, the name was changed to Jones Tabernacle. The first minister was Rev. King, and a few years later, the church was destroyed by a storm. The first church was located on Cummings Street near the corner of what is now McDowell Street.


A storm uplifted the building and placed it a few feet from the original foundation. The building was not totally damaged, so the building was placed back on its original pillars. It is recalled by some of the members living close to the church at that time, how amazed they were to hear the bell tolling during the storm that set the church off its foundation. Following the annual conference, Rev. J. L. Moore was assigned and lead the Jones Tabernacle congregation to renovated. The newly renovated edifice was renamed Walker Memorial CME Church.


In 1917, the church was rebuilt by Rev. J. L. Moore. Rev. G. W. Samples was Presiding Elder and Rev. L. H. Holsey was the Presiding Bishop. We worshipped in that structure until 1973, when we decided that to renovate would be too costly; so, Rev. O. L. Porter started looking around for a suitable structure. Finally, he found our present structure and notified our Bishop, Bishop Henry C. Bunton.


Bishop Bunton was impressed with the new location and made the arrangements and invested Annual conference funds to acquire the property; and, then the Conference borrowed the additional funds complete the transaction from North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company of Durham, NC.


February 2, 1973, marked the history in our present location when more than 50 cars of people, led by Bishop Henry C. Bunton and Rev. J. L. Scipio, caravanned to our present site. Because of the great contributions of Bishop Bunton, the members decided that we would change the name to honor him - thus, by official action of the annual Church Conference, the name was changed to Bunton Institutional CME Church. Rev. O. L. Porter was transferred to Asheville, N.C. allowing Rev. J. L. Scipio to be assigned as the Shepherd of the Flock in July of 1973. When we moved to our present site, we had a total of ninety-one (91) members.


Since our inception, a cadre of Pastors have “watered and planted” in this fertile soil. The testament of our service to this community is marked by the stewardship of these ministers: Rev. King, Rev. Gowdy, Rev. H.A. Washington, Rev. Wiles, Rev. Murray, Rev. Golphum, Rev. Royal, Rev. Waller, Rev. Moore, Rev. Gales, Rev. White, Rev. Roberts, Rev. Bigsby, Rev. Isles, Rev. Davis, Rev. Brodus, Rev. Clark, Rev. Thomas, Rev. Price, Rev. H.B. Jackson, Rev. W.P. Williams, Rev. Fisher, Rev. Bethea, Rev. McKay, Rev. W.M. Gary, Rev. W.H. Ridley, Rev. J.F. Tonsil, Rev. Roston, Rev. Dyson, Rev. Lanford, Rev. Davis, Rev. S. Ray, Rev. G.W. Williams, Rev. O.L. Porter, Rev. J.L. Scipio, Rev. W.W. Gary, Rev. Charles Roman, Rev. David W. Reynolds, Rev. Aaron L. Purham, Sr. and Rev. Clifton E. Harris, Jr.


The following Presiding Elders have assisted in our continued stewardship to this great Zion: Rev. Walker, Rev. Roberts, Rev. Robinson, Rev. Samples, Rev. Smith, Rev. Isles, Rev. Bigsby, Rev. Williams, Rev. Miles, Rev. S. J. McShaw, Rev. Jackson, Rev. W.E. Wilson, Rev. R.L. Brown, Rev. J. H. Lightsey, Rev. Timton, Rev. George Williams, Rev. Bill Williams, Rev. James Goodwin, Rev. Dr. Will E. Chambers, Rev. Willie J. Sturgess, and Rev. Dr. James Russell, Jr.


In July 2015, we were honored to welcome our new Pastor and Presiding Elder, Rev. Cassandry Redmond Keys. Our mission is to transform the community one person at a time through intentional discipleship and excellence in ministry. The November 2015 Church Conference voted to remove the word “Institutional” from our name preferring to Bunton CME Church: The Place of God’s Grace.” The Heritage Award was instituted, February 2016, to honor four faithful deceased members of Bunton and given to persons who exhibited good stewardship, faithfulness, and Christian leadership: Essie Coleman (female youth); Annie Campbell (female adult); Carpus Nash (male youth); and Earnest Degraffried (male adult). Under the leadership of Presiding Elder Keys, we are committed to fulfilling the cultural mandate of discipleship and evangelism in the Greater Spartanburg Community.

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