Celebrating 50 years of the United Methodist Church

Over the next four months leading up to the 2018 Indiana Annual Conference Sessions, we will report on this new vision formed in 1968, the changes that came about due to the merger, and how it shapes who we are today as United Methodists. These accounts are a project of the Commission on Archives and History of the Indiana Conference. 

If you have questions or would like to contribute with comments or stories, please contact Riley Case, rbcase1@gmail.com.


 

(Barnes UMC, 1986) 

Recognizing 50 years of The United Methodist Church

The decision for the merger proved to be simple and clear. However, determining how the two denominations would function as one seemed daunting. Each of these faith traditions was complete with different rituals and structures, and the new denomination had to account and plan for connecting the resources and nuances of each of the preceding denominations. Preparing for this included looking at two sets of bishops, superintendents, and staff; two camping programs; two organizations for women; two youth organizations; two mission boards; two Sunday School publishing companies; hymn books; two pension programs; and much more.

These practical challenges far outweighed the theological and missional issues. Despite the fact that the two denominations shared a common Wesleyan theology and a universal episcopal system of church government, each had developed its own unique habits. Questions such as, "What do we call the group that does evangelism?", "How do we make appointments?", and "What hymns do we love best?" were also to be determined.     

The General Church structure in its entirety needed to be relaunched, complete with new boards and agencies. Additionally, new boundary lines for districts and conferences were established for the annual conferences. This issue was not a concern for areas with little EUB presence however, Indiana, like Ohio and Pennsylvania, had a strong history in the EUB. 

Throughout the many decisions, committees determined that the five Indiana conferences would reorganize as two. Together the two conferences would total 1,682 churches and 413,740 members. The prevailing philosophy for the new conferences was that this was a new church for a "modern" day and while it was good to maintain as many traditions as possible, the merger was an opportunity to start afresh with a new vision and new ways of doing things.