|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Bishop Forrest C. Stith addresses the Central Jurisdiction reunion.
Sept. 1, 2004
By Pamela Crosby*
(UMNS) — African Americans from around the United States are being
asked to contribute personal items to a heritage center that will
preserve the history of blacks in Methodism.
The items will be placed in an African American Methodist Heritage Center, to be built in Atlanta.
the Aug. 27-29 Central Jurisdiction of the Methodist Church Reunion,
retired Bishop Forrest C. Stith reported on the progress of the center,
which will be based at the yet-to-be-constructed Center for Religious
Life at Clark Atlanta University. The United Methodist Commission on
Archives and History, at Drew University in Madison, N.J., has agreed to
house materials until the proposed center is built.
is a pivotal part of the Methodist Church history and a time of
celebration,” said reunion organizer Evelyn Gibson Lowery, “with
historical artifacts gathered from those involved during the Central
Jurisdiction placed in the care of the historical archives of the
African American Methodist Heritage Center.”
asked people to contribute any items relating to the presence of
African Americans in the Methodist church since its founding. The
organizers of the Central Jurisdiction Reunion asked for personal
journals, pictures, church records, reports, newsletters, books,
periodicals, sermons, letters, and audio and videotapes that chronicled
the little-known aspect of Methodist life before the creation of the
current denomination in 1968.
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Participants at the Central Jurisdiction reunion sing during opening worship.
for Church Renewal, the denomination’s African-American caucus, have
worked on the heritage center for four years.
reported that research had revealed many obscure facts. In the
Methodist Church, he said, “bishops were not assigned to a resident area
until the issue of black bishops became present. Only then did the
church address the need for residential bishops.
that time all bishops were bishops of the whole church,” he explained.
“They met together at conference meetings and decided which bishop would
preside at each conference. After 1900, since the blacks were pressing
in, church leaders decided to assign bishops to residential areas so
they wouldn’t have to have a black bishop.”
Central Jurisdiction was created in 1939 as a racial compromise when
the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South,
and the Methodist Protestant Church merged. The non-geographical,
segregated jurisdiction existed until 1968, when it was dismantled with
the merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren
Church. Its bishops, clergy and churches were assigned to the United
Methodist Church’s five geographical jurisdictions.
African-American presence in the denomination engendered an enthusiasm
and inclusion of preachers, and informed the church’s theological
education of the whole person, said Barbara Ricks Thompson, a former top
staff executive with the United Methodist Commission on Religion and
Race. It also affirmed that African Americans still believed in the
concepts of Methodism, she said.
*Crosby is a freelance writer, video producer and consultant in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.