Fifty years ago April 23, 1968, at the Dallas Memorial Auditorium the United Methodist church came into being, as a result of the uniting of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren. While most people remember the merger of these two denominations, another significant action took place, the abolishment of the Central Jurisdiction.
In 1939 Methodist Episcopal Church North and the Methodist Episcopal Church South, separated since the Civil War, came back together to form the Methodist Church. A condition of the merger that the Methodist Episcopal Church South insisted upon was that the 19 black Annual Conferences be a part of the newly created Central Jurisdiction, which was based solely on race.
The year 1968 was a year of turmoil in the United States. Martin Luther King had just been assassinated, race riots’ followed, the Vietnam war was escalating, Robert Kennedy would also be assassinated. The Rev. J. Spurgeon McCartt, a 95-year-old retired elder who attended as a Holston Conference delegate, said, “The church was hopeful. We felt (the unification) was an accomplishment, But the country was in chaos.”
Dr. Albert Outler, who preached the sermon at the uniting worship service said, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us really rejoice and be glad in it — glad for the new chance God now gives us: to be a church united in order to be uniting, a church repentant in order to be a church redemptive, a church cruciform in order to manifest God’s triumphant agony for mankind.”
As a denomination, we once again face issues that threaten to split us. My prayer is that we remember what brought us together and that we can find a way “to be a church united in order to be uniting.”
See you in church,