Some Historical Background
By 1923 Methodism was divided fifteen ways, not counting those which were absorbed or had died out, nor those which did not keep "Methodist" in their name. Of the fifteen, four white and three Black came from the Methodist Episcopal Church; two white and two Black from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, one Black each from the African Methodist Episcopal and the Methodist Protestant Church, and one white from the Primitive Methodist Church of England. Two other Black churches, the African American Methodist Episcopal and the Colored Methodist Protestant, not included in the above list, came, the former from several branches, the latter from the Methodist Protestant Church.
In addition there were six Pentecostal bodies that dropped, "Methodist" from their name, but who nonetheless came about because of factions within the Methodist Episcopal Church ( the first, second and sixth in the following list, the the third from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the fourth and fifth from the Free Methodist Church). 1. The Church of the Nazarene 2. The International Apostolic Holiness Church. 3. The Pentecostal Holiness Church 4. The Holiness Church 5. The Pentecost Bands of the World 6. The Pillar of Fire, (whose members wore blue uniforms). These churches came into being because they were dissatisfied with the lack of emphasis on Wesley's doctrine of entire sanctification in the historic Methodist churches. This doctrine was made prominent by these Holiness bodies. They continued to accept the Methodist system of organization in general, (particularly the principle of goverance by superintendents/ bishops) including the General Rules, and put special emphasis on nonconformity to the world. All were premillenarian, and three taught faith healing.
There were three or four others, Methodistic in doctrine and discipline, who were recognized as eligible for the Ecumenical Methodist Conference:
1. The United Brethren in Christ (two bodies), was founded in 1800 by the close friend of Bishop Francis Asbury, Philip William Otterbein, of the Reformed German Church. They accepted Methodist doctrines and discipline, and were episcopal. If Bishop Asbury and other Methodists had been willing to recognize the validity of German-speaking Methodist churches, there probably would have been a union. The division in the United Brethren itself was due chiefly to the question of oath-bound secret societies. The smaller group of the two refused to accept persons connected with such societies as members.
2. The Evangelical Association was the result of Methodist evangelistic work among German- speaking people in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Jacob Albright, born in Pennsylvania in 1759, a Lutheran, was converted while under the influence of an evangelistic minister of the Reformed German Church. He became a Methodist. Because Methodist leaders believed that the German language would not last very long in America, they refused to organize German-speaking churches. So, Albright, who became a preacher in 1796, began preaching to his own people and organized the new converts into churches. As a result a new denomination, the Evangelical Association was formed in1803, with Albright as the first bishop. A division occurred in 1889 creating the United Evangelical Church. But they reunited in 1922 as the Evangelical Church, with members in Germany, Switzerland, Russia, China, and Japan.
The following is a list of all the various churches active in 1923, with their official names at that time:
1. The Methodist Episcopal Church. This is the parent church, directly descended from the organization at Baltimore in 1784. Even with all it losses by withdrawal, expulsion, secession, separation, and division, it occupied first place in the number of Annual Conferences, ministers, churches and members, Sunday schools, officers and teachers, and scholars.
2. The Methodist Protestant Church. This church came about when dissention erupted over several issues: lay representation to the Annual and General Conferences, the reduction of the bishop's powers and electing presiding elders. The absolute stationing power and the appointment of presiding elders by the bishop had been points of contention from the beginning of Methodism. Maintaining the status quo meant a vote against lessening these powers. Lay representation was, however, a new idea. The ministers and laymen alike, who were strong advocates of these reforms, were suspended and expelled. Some voluntarily withdrew, seeing no hope of their reforms becoming reality, and the new denomination was organized in Pittsburgh in 1830. Among their leaders were Asa Shinn, Nicholas Snethen, a traveling companion of Asbury, and Alexander McCaine. In 1858 the slavery question became divisive and a new body emerged, calling itself The Methodist Church. A dozen years after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery the two were reunited.
The Methodist Protestant Church had no bishops nor presiding elders, only presidents of each Annual Conference who continued to serve as pastors. A Committee made appointments of preachers that were then approved by the Conference. Lay representatives were elected to Annual and General Conferences. Each president of the General Conference served as superintendent for four years.
3. The Wesleyan Methodist Connection of America. Two issues contributed to the organization of this body in 1843, at Utica, New York -- opposition to slavery and to episcopacy. The split over the slavery issue was the harbinger of the great rift in Methodism in 1844. Orange Scott, a strong preacher and a powerful debater, was the leader of the movement. He never had a large following. It had no bishops, only general supervision by the president of its quadrennial General Conference. It opposed secret oath-bound societies, observed "plainness of dress," forbidding "the wearing of gold or costly apparel, and emphasized the Wesleyan doctrine of sanctification. There also was no time limit to itinerancy.
4. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In 1845, sixteen delegates from the Annual Conferences in the South, formed this body, on the basis of the provisional Plan of Separation adopted by the General Conference of 1844. Its first General Conference was held in May, 1846. Two bishops, Soule and Andrew, joined the new organization, and in 1846 two additional bishops were elected. Arrangements were also made for a publishing house. In 1848 the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, declared the Plan of Separation null and void and refused to accept an overture for fraternal relations from the Southern General Conference as well as their appointed representative, Dr. Lovick Pierce.
The Southern church, had highly acclaimed universities and colleges. With home and foreign mission work and organized benevolences, it became an influential denomination in the South, second only to the Southern Baptist Convention. Its doctrine was the same the Northern church. It differed in the absolute power given to bishops. They could even veto General Conference legislation they regarded as unconsitutional. It had no probationary system for members and admited lay representatives the General and Annual Conferences. Women eventually gained the same hard-won equal rights with men that their Northern sisters had in General Conference, Annual Conference and on all the General boards.
Differences between the two sections were increased by the Civil War and were aggravated by the entry of the Methodist Episcopal Church into the South, after the war, to organize Annual Conferences, both among the white and colored people, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, coming into Northern territory in the same way. The controversial period came to an end and both churches entered into negotiations for reunion. The plans for such a reunion resulted in The Methodist Episcopal Church; The Methodist Episcopal Church, South; and The Methodist Protestant Church uniting in 1939 to become The Methodist Church.
5. The Primitive Methodist Church in the United States of America. This was an extension to America of a division in England early in the nineteenth century when Campmeetings were introduced there. Some of the English Wesleyans saw this phenomenon as a way to spur evangelistic efforts. People converted at Campmeetings were organized into churches, and sought admission to the Wesleyan body. When they were refused they organized a separate branch. The Primitive Methodists who immigrated to America formed congregations here, largely in Pennsylvania. They differed from other Methodist bodies in having no bishops, no presiding elders, and no time limit on itinerancy. They permitted women ministers. They had Annual and Quarterly Conferences and a quadrennial General Conference. By 1923 they had three Annual Conferences in America.
6. The Congregational Methodist Church. When Georgia ministers and members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South objected to the episcopacy and itinerancy, a schism resulted in the organization of this body in 1852, in Forsythe, Georgia. It had Annual and General Conferences but was congregational in polity with "permanent" ministers contrasted to an "intinerant" ministry. It retained Methodist doctrines. It suffered heavy losses in the decade ending in 1916, and church numbers decreased.
7. The Free Methodist Church of North America. A dispute in New York's Genessee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church arose over an alleged departure from Methodist faith, experience, and practice, as well as an abuse of ecclesiastical power. It led to withdrawals and expulsions and a separate organization in 1860. The episcopal structure and most of the other features of the parent body were retained. However, they did exclude instrumental music and choirs from their worship services. By 1923 there were forty or more Annual Conferences in the United States and Canada.
8. The New Congregational Methodist Church. In 1881, withdrawals from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in southern Georgia, over dissatisfaction with the Board of Missions created this body. It recognized parity in ministry, the rights of the local church, opposed assessments, and embraced the ceremony of foot-washing for those who wanted it. It was congregational in polity. It retained Methodist doctrine but had only a small following.
9. African Methodist Episcopal Church. From the beginning there was prejudice against the African Americans. In New York they were expected to wait until the whites had received Communion before coming to the Lord's table. In the Methodist Society of Philadelphia as early as 1787 Blacks began to work toward having separate meeting places. They charged their white brethren with considering them "a nuisance in the house of worship." Bishop Francis Asbury consecrated a new church for them known as Bethel and later ordained Richard Allen, an ex-slave from Virginia, who furnished most of the money for the building. He became its pastor and subsequently the first bishop of the church. They became the largest body of Black Methodists, with bishops, colleges, missions at home and in Africa and the West Indies.
10. African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. The second largest Black denomination began in New York in 1796. Black members of the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church who were refused a place to worship alongside their white brethren decided instead to provide themselves with a separate church, which they named "Zion," because that was the name of the local church they built. By agreement white pastors conducted their services for twenty years, before they had Black ministers. The separation was complete when they elected their first Black bishops. They had a Conference with a bishop in Africa, formed their own colleges, theological schools, and church press.
11. The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1845 when the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was organized, it had 124,000 Black members. By 1860 membership had increased to 207,766. After the Civil War these members began leaving the ME, South, uniting with the Methodist Episcopal Church and with the two leading Black Churches. To counter this erosion, 1870 the ME, South, organized this body from what was left of their Black members and ministers. The denomination later changed its name to Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. This church, with a Board of Bishops, publishing house, periodicals, educational instituitions and missionary outreach, grew rapidly in the 1920's becoming by 1937 the fifth largest Methodist body.
12. The Union African Methodist Episcopal Church. With a few Annual Conferences in the North, bishops, a General conference and about twenty thousand members by 1923, this church dates from1813, when Peter Spencer, a Black man in Wilmington, Delaware, was ordained. The actual organization coming some years later. It lays claim to being the oldest Black Methodist Church in the world. Originally called the Union Church of Africans, its named was changed in 1866. It is an offshoot from the Methodist Episcopal Church.
13. The African Union Methodist Protestant Church. A small nonepiscopal body, in general agreement with the Methodist Protestant Church, from which it came. Each Annual Conference selected its own president for a term of four years.
14. The Reformed Zion Union Apostolic Church. A small body of Black Methodists dating from 1869, in Virginia, drawn from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. This separation led the ME, South, to form the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. It is episcopal, with Annual and General Conferences. The latter meets annually. By 1923 it was found only in Virginia and North Carolina.
15. The Reformed Methodist Union Episcopal Church. Another small body largely in South Carolina and Georgia, by 1923. Their first bishop was consecrated by a bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church in 1885. This resulted in a secession from the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
16. The Reformed Methodist Church. This group came into existence in 1813, when Pliny Brett was refused admission into full connection in the New England Conference. As a consequence he led a small number of churches in Vermont into a separate body. Holiness was made a principle doctrine.
17. The Canada Methodist Episcopal Church. Methodism was carried to Canada from New York in 1774. The War of 1812 created so much tension between Canadian and American Methodists that the Canadians asked to be separated. In late 1828, Bishop Elijah Hedding formed the church from the Canada Annual Conference. By 1883 the four branches of English Methodism that came to Canada and this church were united as the Canadian Methodist Church. In 1925 another merger with Presbyterians and Congregationalists created the United Church of Canada.
19. The Holiness Methodist Church.
Another of the bodies that left the Methodist Episcopal
Church over the doctrine
of holiness. They were formed in 1900, and had been known as the Lumbee