Sept. 2, 2004
A UMNS Report
By Pamela Crosby*
From 1960 to 1966, W.
Astor Kirk was part of a five-member committee commissioned by Central
Jurisdiction church leaders to search for an inclusive Methodist
W. Astor Kirk
In his book, Desegregation of The Methodist Church Polity: Reform Movements That Ended Racial Segregation
Kirk said: "Only a few people know that the Methodist Church/United
Methodist Church was once formally and constitutionally racially
segregated. Many who have heard of the Central Jurisdiction Organization
assumed it to be a Black denomination, like the African Methodist
Episcopal Church or the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church."
The following is a chronology of the Central Jurisdiction and events leading up to its creation.
1784: The Methodist Episcopal Church is organized. This is recognized as the founding date of the United Methodist Church.
Richard Allen and others in the congregation of St. George’s Methodist
Episcopal Church withdraw in protest of segregation.
1796: James Varick leads the founding of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
1816: Black Methodist Episcopal churches unite to form the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Allen becomes its first bishop.
1864: Separate African-American annual conferences are formed.
1870: The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, later renamed the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, is formed.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South,
and the Methodist Protestant Church merge to form the Methodist Church.
The segregated Central Jurisdiction is formed as a racial compromise.
1948: The Central Jurisdiction Conference forms a committee to study ways of eliminating the jurisdiction.
1952: The General Conference establishes the Board of Social and Economic Relations.
1956: The General Conference conducts a study of the jurisdictional system.
The General Conference adopts legislation, which later becomes
Amendment IX, allowing churches in the Central Jurisdiction to transfer
to geographical jurisdictions.
1958: Amendment IX of the Methodist Church’s Constitution, adopted by the 1956 General Conference, becomes effective.
General Conference sets up the Commission on Interjurisdictional
Relations to continue a program to abolish the Central Jurisdiction.
1964: Conferences within the Central Jurisdiction begin merging into geographical annual conferences.
1967: Bishop L. Scott Allen becomes the 14th and last bishop elected by the Central Jurisdiction.
The Central Jurisdiction is abolished with the merger of the Methodist
and Evangelical United Brethren churches into the United Methodist
*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.