Methodist Churches Unite After 109 Years of Separation

Methodist Churches Unite After 109 Years of Separation

Slave Transit to America, 1835

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After a separation of 109 years, the Methodist Episcopal Church in the U.S. is reunited.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, South had broken away in 1844 over slavery, and the Methodist Protestant Church had broken away in 1828 over what they alleged was the autocracy of the Methodist bishops.

Church historian Paul Neff Garber writes about the problems which slavery and the Civil War created in the Methodist Church:

"The racial issue was long a divisive factor. Although the whites and the Negroes worshipped at first in the same Methodist churches, friction early arose between the two races. Negro Methodists in Philadelphia withdrew and founded, in 1816, the African Methodist Episcopal church, while similar secession in New York City resulted in the organization of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church in 1820. ...

Slavery helped to divide Methodism. As early as May, 1843, a group of antislavery Methodists, despairing of their attempt to commit the Methodist Episcopal church to abolitionism, withdrew and organized the Wesleyan Methodist church. ...

Animosity was further increased by the Civl War, for the two branches of Episcopal Methodism were arrayed on opposite sides in the struggle.

The loyalty of the Methodist Episcopal church to the Union caused President Abraham Lincoln to assert that it sent more soldiers to the field, more nurses to the hospitals, and more prayers to heaven than any other denomination.

The Methodist Episcopal church, South, rallied in a similar manner to the aid of the southern Confederacy."

Part of the impetus to reunite has been money:

"From a practical viewpoint, the overlapping of work by the three Methodist groups could not be justified. In 1912 the northern and southern Methodists had $12,000,000 invested in property in the same communities and were expending $750,000 a year for pastoral support of competing churches.

It was difficult to explain the presence of two Methodist churches and two Methodist preachers in villages where one church and one minister would have rendered equal service and would have lessened the financial strain on the people."

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