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John Christian Keener (7 February 1819 – 19 January 1906) was an American Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, elected in 1870.

Early life[]

John was born 7 February 1819 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. His father, Christian Keener, was in his day a man of mark and one of the best-known Methodists of Baltimore. John was a pupil at Wilbraham Wesleyan Academy, from which he graduated. At the age of 9 John was taken into the home of Doctor Wilbur Fisk, who was Principal, and kept under his care for three years. John then became a member of the first graduating class of Wesleyan University (1835), when Dr. Fisk became its first President.

Conversion and business career[]

Keener was converted to the Christian faith in Baltimore at the age of 19 (1838). He was Superintendent of a Sunday school in Wesley chapel charge for two years, and in this work he felt the divine call to preach. After graduating from college, he entered the mercantile business as a wholesale druggist, becoming prosperous and successful. He continued in business until 1841, when he resolved to close up his business and abandon secular pursuits.

Ordained ministry[]

He then went south and was licensed to preach. Rev. Keener joined the Alabama Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1843, and when the church was divided in 1844 remained with the Church, South. He was transferred to the Louisiana Conference in 1848. He was appointed to various churches in Alabama until 1853, when he went to New Orleans where he was Pastor successively of the Poydras Street, Carondelet Street, and Felicity Street churches. He was Presiding Elder of that District in 1858 and 1860, living in New Orleans for twenty years total, all but two years during the American Civil War.

Rev. Keener was highly esteemed by Jefferson Davis, and served as Superintendent of C.S.A. Chaplains west of the Mississippi River during the Civil War. He was Presiding Elder again, 1865-70. From 1866 to 1870 he also edited the New Orleans Christian Advocate, an important periodical of his denomination.[1]

All three of his sons followed him into the Methodist ministry.

Keener the preacher[]

He was a student, not only of theology, but also of general literature. He had a delicate perception of literary beauty. One commentator wrote of him,

"while the careful discriminations in his sermons satisfy the hearer of thoughtful preparation, the neat turns of expression, well-chosen words and chaste adornments prove him to be at once the enemy of slovenliness of style and a friend to the unaffected graces of speech. He is a preacher of profit; but while true in any case that full benefit can be gained from a sermon by the attentive hearer only, it is specially true when compactness of thought and a terse rhetoric distinguish it." [2]

Episcopal ministry[]

Bishop Keener was elected to the Episcopacy in 1870. In 1873 he founded a M.E. Church, South Mission in Mexico. He resided in a suburb of New Orleans, though he traveled through every part of the Church. He continued to pay special attention to the Mexico mission, its development and promising condition thought to have been largely due to this attention and his personal labor bestowed upon it.

Bishop Keener was honored with the D.D. degree in 1854, and that of LL.D. in 1880. He retired from the active Episcopacy in 1898, and died on 19 January 1906 in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he was also buried.

Selected writings[]

  • The Post Oak Circuit, Nashville, 1857.
  • Poem: "Bishop Marvin's Missionary Tour," Ladies' Repository, 1861.
  • Editor of Munsey, W.E., Sermons and Lectures, Vol. I, 1883; Vol. II, 1886.
  • Studies of Bible Truths, 1899.
  • The Garden of Eden and the Flood, 1900.


  • Sermon, Galloway, C.B., Wesleyan Pulpit, Atlanta, 1905.
  • Cyclopaedia of Methodism, Matthew Simpson, D.D., LL.D., Ed., (Revised Edition.) Philadelphia, Louis H. Everts, 1880.

See also[]

  • List of Bishops of the United Methodist Church