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. 


Archives and History: Why the EUB & Methodist Union made good sense

The preceding groups that made up the two denominations shared a common heritage of pietism from Germany and fervor of revival from England. And doctrinal backgrounds of Arminian (Arminius was a Dutch theologian who questioned strict Calvinism) and Wesleyan (from John Wesley). While early leaders came from different denominational backgrounds — Francis Asbury originally Anglican; Philip Otterbein, German reformed (influenced by Mennonites); and Jacob Albright, a Lutheran influenced by Methodists. The leaders all shared a zeal of evangelism that transcended their denominational loyalties and ignited their followers. 

They represented the beginnings of what would be called in history “The Second Great Awakening.” Methodism was successful primarily among English-speaking people. But there were a number of German-speaking people concentrated primarily in Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic states who were also involved in the awakening. They were influenced by Methodist preaching but needed pastors who could minister in their own language. Philip Otterbein, who was a friend of Francis Asbury, helped to form a group known as the United Brethren in Christ. While Joseph Albright helped to form a group known as the Evangelical Association. Both churches were patterned after Methodist doctrine and polity (how the church is organized, in this case, with bishops).

For a number of years both the Evangelicals and the United Brethren reflected their German heritage and ministered largely to German-speaking people migrating to America. As the 19th century progressed, both groups, along with the Methodists, began to direct a religious culture influenced by revivalism and perhaps described best as American evangelicalism. 

It was soon realized that what groups held in common transcended what separated them. This commonality led to earlier mergers. In 1939 the Methodist Episcopal Church (the Northern church) and the Methodist Episcopal Church South and the Methodist Protestant Church united in a new denomination called “The Methodist Church.” In 1946 the United Brethren in Christ Church united with the Evangelical Church to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB). Even at that time, there were persons  who began to say: "Let's take the logical next step and unite with the Methodists."

By the 1960s the time was right.

These historical sketches are a project of the Commission on Archives and History of the Indiana Conference. If you wish to add comments and/or stories contact Riley Case, rbcase1@gmail.com.


What about doctrine?

As with any merger or union of large institutions challenges may arise in how the succeeding organization will operate and from which of the preceding organizations will it gain the bases of its practices. One the tricky issues to be worked out before the union of the Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodist Episcopal Church became official was doctrine. 

While both groups were Wesleyan, and in fact, both the United Brethren Church and the Evangelical Church had in their earliest days adopted Confessions of Faith with affirmations borrowed from the Methodist Articles of Religion, there were still some unique differences. Some EUBs assumed the new united church could merely write new Articles of Religion based on the two denominations' statements.

Not possible. The Methodist doctrinal standards were written into the Constitution by an action of the 1808 General Conference and could not be altered except by constitutional amendment (which would be almost impossible to accomplish).  A special and highly regarded commission was appointed in 1968 to find a solution. Headed by Dr. Albert Outler of Perkins the commission suggested that both the Methodist Articles of Religion (as well as Wesley's Sermons which are also part of the standards) and the EUB Confession of Faith be adopted as the doctrinal foundation for the new denomination.

But there was more: the commission prepared an interpretative statement entitled Our Theological Task to be included in the Discipline which would put the confessional statements in historical context and allow for new interpretations of doctrine. 

These suggestions were overwhelmingly approved at the 1972 General Conference by a vote of 923-17.  A number of new ideas were introduced to the church in the document, Our Theological Task.  

1) Pluralism: The church would allow for a variety of theological viewpoints to co-exist

2) The Quadrilateral: the authority in doctrinal matters would rest on a four-way test of Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason

3) The Conciliar Principle: Just as the church universal (especially the Catholic Church) had depended on ecumenical councils to make authoritative (and sometimes new) interpretations of truth, so would United Methodist official councils such as the General Conference, would continually be able to make authoritative interpretations of doctrine (an example is our present statement on Baptism).

Within a few years the doctrinal statement would come under criticism.  Pluralism was coming to mean that "anything goes" and that United Methodists did not have standards in any meaningful sense. The quadrilateral seemed to downgrade the importance of Scripture and was being misused. The Conciliar Principle was not really part of the United Methodist ethos and no one could figure out how it was supposed to function.

In 1984 the General Conference appointed a new doctrinal task force to correct the frailties. The present statement was adopted at the 1988 General Conference. The word "pluralism" and the idea of conciliar principle disappeared. The quadrilateral was clarified so that Scripture was primary and tradition, experience, and reason were not independent sources of truth but were related to Scripture. Unlike the Articles of Religion, the statement Our Theological Task can be reviewed and amended by the General Conference.

These historical sketches are a project of the Commission on Archives and History of the Indiana Conference. Stay tuned. If you wish to add comments and stories, contact Riley Case, rbcase1@gmail.com.


The social creed

Social Principles - 1908

The Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist Episcopal Church merger took place at a time of great social upheaval (1968). 

A number of groups wanted the new united church to take a strong prophetic social stance in the times of student unrest, Woodstock, as well as the unpopular Vietnam war. While the EUBs had nothing similar to a Social Creed they did have resolutions and statements that appeared in EUB Disciplines. 

The Methodists, on the other hand, had operated on or off with a social creed ever since 1908, when an unofficial group called Methodists Federated for Social Service in the Northern church prepared a "creed" that was adopted by the General Conference and placed in the 1908 Discipline. The statement was perhaps more a statement of social principles than a creed. The thrust of the first creed was strongly about labor and economics: abolition of child labor, rights of workers, including release from employment one day in seven, and principles of arbitration and negotiation for workers. The creed was then adopted shortly after by the Federal Council of Churches and the Southern church.

In the 1920s and 30s the creed, still under the auspicious guide of the Methodist Federation, became highly critical of capitalism and as a result of a conservative backlash, the 1936 General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Protestant Church adopted no social creed at all.    

However, with the merger of three Methodist bodies in 1939 the social creed made another appearance. The Uniting Conference of 1940 adopted a creed with less stringent criticism of capitalism. Again, however, by 1952 the creed had again become controversial. The General Conference broke ties with the Methodist Federation and created a new board (the Board of Social and Economic Relations) to shepherd the creed.

When the merger talks began between EUBs and Methodists, there was tremendous excitement about using the merger as an opportunity to address socially and morally the Church's positions in the rapidly changing social scene of the 1960s.  Though the EUBs did not have a history of a unified statement on social issues they were as enthusiastic as the Methodists in the development of something new.

Bishop James Thomas chaired the Commission on Social Principles that would guide the newly unified United Methodist Church. The new statement differed from all previous statements in that it was labeled Social Principles. It started with a theological preamble and ended with a short creed-like statement appropriate for congregational worship.  It is fair to say that no legislation before the 1972 General Conference generated more debate, discussion, and revision than the Social Principles statement.   

When finally adopted it was considered progressive and forward-looking. The United Methodist Church was the first major Protestant denomination to have a thorough and comprehensive statement on the principles that informed church thinking in moral and social issues.

In light of the present discussions in the church on human sexuality, the Social Principles addressed for the first time the matter of sexual orientation with a strong statement supporting the sacred worth of all persons. It was at that time an amendment from the floor added a sentence which stated: "However, the practice of homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teaching." And because of this amendment, much debate is fueled by what seems to be contradictory language. This statement continues to be near the center of the challenges facing denomination and the work of the Commission on the Way Forward and how the Church addresses the matter of human sexuality.    

These historical sketches are a project of the Commission on Archives and History of the Indiana Conference. If you wish to add comments and/or stories contact Riley Case, rbcase1@gmail.com


The EUB - Methodist union and the Central Jurisdiction

United Methodists across the Indiana Conference will observe the 50th anniversary of the unification of the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist Churches, held in 1968. One of the major developments that came about as the result of the merger was the elimination of the Central Jurisdiction of the Methodist Church. The Central Jurisdiction helped in organizing black Methodist churches that existed alongside, but separate, from the main body of predominantly white conferences in the United States.

This arrangement came about as the result of the 1939 merger of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the Methodist Protestant (MP) Church. In the days of segregation, the Central Jurisdiction was seen as a convenient compromise in the plan of unifying the two churches to make the merger more palatable to the concerns of the South.

The Methodists were the first denomination to successfully reach and Christianize blacks in America, both slave and free. Methodist camp meetings were likely the first institution in America where blacks and whites could congregate on more or less equal terms. But racial injustice was, and is, hard to overcome. As blacks were made to feel like second-class citizens, though they were brothers and sisters of the Church, two primarily black groups withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church to form new denominations — the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in the New York area, and the African Methodist Church Zion in the Philadelphia area. Despite these losses, blacks still made up 20% of the Methodist Episcopal membership by 1820. In 1870, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME), another black Methodist denomination, was formed by freed slaves. Launched with 67,889 members, the denomination grew to 366,613 by 1922.       

By 1964, African American Methodist membership totaled 373,395. Since the unification of the Evangelical United Brethrens and the Methodists would require extensive restructuring, it was only logical to reevaluate the inequity of the Central Jurisdiction model and move to full inclusion of black churches in the newly formed geographical conferences. 

In the early 1960s, black churches of the Lexington Conference had already merged into the Indiana conferences. In other parts of the country, the churches were merged into the geographical conferences in the years between 1968-1972.   

These historical sketches are a project of the Commission on Archives and History of the Indiana Conference. If you wish to add comments and/or stories contact Riley Case, rbcase1@gmail.com


Local Communities

As we continue to remember and mark the 50th anniversary of the unification of the Evangelical United Brethren( EUB) and Methodist Churches to form The United Methodist Church, we recognize the opportunities created throughout our local churches as two denominations became one. 

Throughout the country, the Methodist presence overwhelmed the EUB. However, Indiana’s rich history demonstrated a more balanced presence that presented years of fruitful ministry in both EUB and Methodist congregations. The unification of the two now provided Indiana with 1,682 churches and 413,740 members. 

As the denomination began to live into its new identity, questions emerged on how to move forward in areas where multiple EUB and Methodist congregations existed. For instance, smaller towns such as Claypool, Indiana with a population of 458 was home to both an EUB church and Methodist, just blocks apart. Larger communities also posed challenges. In Elkhart, a city of 43,000, now had 14 congregations with 14 pastors making up their own ministerial association. 

The main challenge presented was the fact that despite there being many churches, a large number of churches were no longer strategically located. Areas existed where there were abundances of churches but not an abundance of people and vice versa. 

As these concerns were brought up during committee meetings, the interest of good stewardship presented a need to merge churches or yoke parishes. This endeavor came with mixed results. However, a successful merger in Elkhart between four churches in close proximity proved to be most fruitful. The congregations of former Methodist Protestant, Grace, former Methodist Episcopal, Simpson, former Evangelical, Albright, and former United Brethren, Good Shepherd joined together to form a new church start in Concord Township, Faith United Methodist Church, which came under the direction of Rev. Larry Kurtz and Rev. Frank Beard, who now serves as the bishop of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. Today, the congregation worships nearly 500 persons each Sunday. 
 

Text in image: 

United Bretheren among earliest settlers in eastern

Indiana during territorial period. Original structure,

built in 1831, one of first United Bretherren

churches in Indiana. Evangelical United Bretheren

Church joined Methodist Church to become United

Methodist Church, 1968. Listed in National Register

of Historic Places, 1995.

 

These historical sketches are a project of the Commission on Archives and History of the Indiana Conference. If you wish to add comments and/or stories contact Riley Case, rbcase1@gmail.com


The Hymnal Unites Us

Methodists hymnals historically have favored Charles Wesley’s hymns shored up by other European hymn writers. In the first official hymnal of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1848, 558 of 1148 hymns were by Charles Wesley. All of the rest, except for two, were of European origin. Meanwhile, revivalist Methodists were composing indigenous gospel song and song books by the scores. They were criticized as “ditties” by the Methodist elite. The “official” hymnal carried the admonition that Methodists were to buy only hymnals signed by bishops. The next official M.E. hymnal of 1878 had 1,117 hymns of which 66 were of Episcopalian authorship, 22 Congregational, 14 Unitarian and only 10 from the M.E. Church. Only three of the 1,117 hymns were associated with anyone west of Rochester, N.Y., or south of Washington D.C. 

The United Brethren, meanwhile, was also publishing hymnals but their General Conferences did not try to control what was acceptable and what was not acceptable for the churches. In the Otterbein Hymnal published in 1890 the editor explained the philosophy: “The Church of the United Brethren in Christ emphasizes the necessity of Christian experience—experimental religion, the fathers would have phrased it—and recognizes revival effort as the characteristic phase of this church activity; hence, its hymnal must furnish amply expression for its full and varied Christian experience and large facilities for revival work.”   

The 1935 Methodist hymnal, a joint effort of the M.E. Church, the M.E. South Church, and the Methodist Protestant Church, was published at the height of the social gospel movement where Charles Wesley was reduced to just 56 hymns. The hymnal was touted as “New hymns for a new day.” There was a separate section for gospel hymns titled “Songs of Salvation.” This is the hymnal many of us grew up with.

When the Evangelical Church joined the United Brethren Church in 1946 leaders of the new denomination wanted to help seal the merger with a new hymnal. There were differences of opinion not because of music styles or theology but because of personal preferences. The hymnal, published in 1955, gradually won the hearts of EUBs.

In the early 1960s, when it was apparent that the Methodist-EUB merger would soon take place, there were many who felt one of the first items of business for the new denomination would be a new hymnal.  It was not to be.  The EUB hymnal was less than 10 years old, and many EUBs were reluctant to abandon that reminder of their heritage. The Methodists, meanwhile, were under great pressure for a new hymnal (most of the new hymns for a new day never caught on) and so another official hymnal was published in 1966 just before the merger. Since hymnals have a 25-30 year life this pretty much guaranteed there would be no UM hymnal for a while. 

In retrospect, it was a good decision to wait. By 1988, when the new UM hymnal was approved, the church was ready. 1988 has been one of the most successful denominational hymnals ever produced. Wesley hymns were increased to 70; gospel hymns, thanks in part to EUB influence, were increased to 100.  Hymns like “It Is Well with My Soul,” “Victory in Jesus,” “In the Garden,” and “He Lives” were finally declared acceptable for United Methodists. Inclusive language was used whenever possible; hymns from the African-American tradition were introduced.

In a day when there are tensions in the denomination, the hymnal is a unifying force. 

These historical sketches are a project of the Commission on Archives and History of the Indiana Conference. If you wish to add comments and/or stories contact Riley Case, rbcase1@gmail.com.


THE MERGER AND CAMPING

Camp Rivervale, 1949, DePauw University Archives

While some aspects of the Methodist-EUB merger impacted the general church as well as the local church, the merger had an even greater impact on the annual conference, more specifically the camping ministries of the Indiana Annual Conference. When five conferences (3 Methodist, 2 EUB) merged into one, it was necessary to address different conference camping cultures, different ways of structuring the camping program, and the number of different facilities that would be managed by the Conference. 

Camping ministry has its history in the frontier camp meetings, which in early Methodism were often held at the time of the fourth quarterly conference when churches of the circuit would gather together, often overnight due to traversing long distances, to conduct business and to worship together. The camp meetings were basically outdoor revivals and were wildly successful in contributing to the dramatic growth of the Church in Indiana in the early 1800s. By the 1840s and 50s, Methodists and EUBs began to secure more permanent meeting locations on campgrounds throughout the Conference. Those campgrounds included Maple Grove (UB), Santa Claus (German Methodists), Deputy, Acton, Silver Heights, Battle Ground, and other district sponsored sites. The Evangelicals developed Oakwood in 1894 and the Methodist North Conference established Epworth Forest in 1924. Battle Ground camp meetings had crowds of over 10,000 in the 1880s.  

Over the years the emphasis at some of the campgrounds changed from revivalism to Christian education. “Institutes” worked best for older youth and young adults as the Institute plan emphasized lectures, sermons, classes, and inspirational programs. Elementary and junior high youth transitioned into more traditional camping, living together and learning skills in an outdoor setting. But the conferences were at different stages in regards to whether there would be transitions, how well those transitions worked, as well as how they were managed. One of the most successful camping programs was that of the North Indiana Methodist Conference which, during the 1950s and 60s, was district-based and enrolled sometimes an average of over 3,000 senior high youth each summer. The junior high program, also district-based, was enrolling 1,700 youth. To show their commitment and support for camping ministries in the late 1950s, local churches across the Indiana Conference raised $1.3 million to improve Epworth Forest and Epworth Heights campgrounds. A large part of its success was the tradition that pastors would commit a week each year to the program.  

However, that tradition did not necessarily carry over into the merged conferences. Where six districts could enroll 3,000 senior high students before the merger, by 1970 ten districts of the merged church we limited to an enrollment of 2,402. Orin Manifold, in his history of Epworth Forest, explained that the plummet in enrollment numbers was due to “lack of tradition in churches brought into the merger, lack of district cohesiveness, and diminishing support from superintendents.”

There were issues also with the number of campsites. The two Indiana conferences at the time of merger found themselves with 12 sites, some in various states of disrepair.  It was necessary to sell and merge programs to ensure functionality, as well as the future of the ministry.     

Under direction and guidance of a new leadership structure, the conferences were able to develop new programs, inspired the revitalization, management of campsites. Today, Camping and Outdoor ministries continues its mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world by taking an active role in the lives and ministry of young people from around Indiana, creating safe space to learn about the love of Jesus Christ, and guiding them as they discern and live out their call.


How the leadership of United Methodist Women helped advance the Church

Women from Dublin United Methodist Church, DePauw University Archives

Ever since the days of Susanna Wesley women in the Wesleyan movements have played a prominent role in the advancement of the Church. The first Methodist preaching in America took place in 1766 after Barbara Heck goaded her cousin Philip Embury with the words, “You must preach to us lest we all go to hell.” If women did not preach in early Methodist camp meetings they were, at the very least, known as exhorters. Many women served as class leaders. Wesleyan Methodists who split from the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1842, ordained women and it was in a Wesleyan Church that the famous Seneca Falls meeting took place. 

Phoebe Palmer, who launched the American Holiness movement, was a feminist who advocated for women to assume preaching roles in the Church and, with the help of friends, established the Five Points Mission in New York. When men were slow in advancing the cause of missions in the 1860s, the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church was established, to the dismay of some church leaders who did not appreciate what was considered an independent agency sending out missionaries apart from the official mission board. In 1872 women were received as delegates at the M.E. General Conference. In 1866 Indiana’s own Methodist Protestant Helenor Davisson became the first ordained woman to preach in a church now in the lineage of United Methodism. Ellen Niswonger was ordained in the United Brethren Church in 1889.  

Women like Francis Willard led the crusade for temperance and advocacy for women and children in the late 1800’s. In almost every one of the Holiness churches that had splintered from Methodist congregational bodies in the late 1800s and early 1900s, ordained women, including; The Church of the Nazarene, several congregations of the Church of God, the Assemblies of God, and numerous Pentecostal groups. In the early days of the Pilgrim Holiness Church fully one-third of the clergy were women.  

Perhaps it was because some avenues of service (such as ordination) were closed to women in the Methodist and EUB traditions that women’s groups became so strong. Many Ladies” Aid Societies kept churches functioning in the early 1900s. After the 1939 merger of the M.E. Church, the M.E. Church South, and the Methodist Protestant Church, the Women’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) became the largest body of organized women in the world.  By 1953 it numbered 1,733,413 members in 30,101 societies in the U.S. alone. It supported  566 missionaries, 288 deaconesses, and 1,200 other workers. This does not even count the overseas churches and their women’s groups. The official publication, The Methodist Woman, had a circulation of 275,000 copies.   

In 1956 women were given full clergy rights in the Methodist Church. At the same time, women were becoming more accepted in all of the leadership roles of the church. Ordination and other avenues of service may have diminished the importance of the WSCS. In one of my early churches, a woman did not take a position with the WSCS because she had been elected chair of the trustees. Still, at the time of the Methodist-EUB merger in 1968, the merged church would still count 1.6 million members of the new organization known as United Methodist Women (UMW) and it was still the largest women’s organization in the world.  By this time the various women’s organizations had been incorporated into the church’s larger Board of Global Ministries. As part of the negotiations for this linking with the board, the Women’s Division was given authority to nominate their own members to the board.  Because the Methodist women’s organizations were so strong for the most part the EUB women in the general church level were absorbed into the larger Methodist structure.  

Local UMS units adjusted to the merger with few problems, as did annual conference groups.    


The merger and total restructuring

  

PART 1 

 

 

Of all the issues facing the merger for the EUB and Methodists churches, the matter of how to restructure the new denomination required the most time, money and effort.  

The merger could not have come at a difficult time (or a better time, depending on one’s perspective). The nation was facing unprecedented political, social and racial upheaval. The 1960s brought serious race riots to Watts in 1965 and Detroit in 1967. It brought Woodstock and the drug culture.  It also brought the rise of gay and lesbian activism, liberation theology, the Secular City, the Death of God movement, and the Vietnam war.  The shooting of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy came only days before the Uniting Conference of 1968. Serious riots broke out at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that summer. 

Within Methodism, Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) had organized, as had another group, Methodists for Church Renewal. The latter group organized demonstrations at the General Conference of 1968 in which persons seized the conference floor, marched, sang, demonstrated and sent a strong message: The Church had not dealt with its own sexism and racism and outdated ways of doing things. This was the day of freedom and that meant freedom from institutional restraints.  In a climate of freedom, how could the church demand that clergy pledge themselves not to use tobacco or alcohol? Youth demanded a new philosophy of youth ministry in which they not be given answers but “tools” so they could find answers for themselves.   

The conference reflected the changing times by supporting the controversial Project Equality, by setting up a 200 million dollar Fund for Reconciliation, by establishing a new social concerns magazine, later called Engage, and by passing a  resolution proclaiming the “right of non-violent civil disobedience in extreme cases.” All of this motivated the emergence of identity group caucuses.

While there was a lot of anger and frustration expressed at the 1968 General Conference, there was also a lot of hope. That hope was related to the Methodist-EUB merger.  The merger would serve as an opportunity to start over, to make right the injustices of the past, and give the Church a new vision. This would start with restructuring how the church would be organized. For sure any structure would need to ensure a place at the table for previously marginalized groups. As a symbol of the problem, it was pointed out that the Board of Education during an earlier quadrennium was composed of 39 members, of which 37 were white male liberals. Only seven were pastors; thirteen were associated with universities or seminaries; most of the rest were bishops or bureaucrats from other agencies.  It was out of situations such as this that the new structure sought to reflect diversity and inclusiveness.


The merger and total restructuring

 

PART 2

While the Methodist-EUB merger was officially approved by the 1968 General Conference it was not until 1972 that the structure was hammered out and approved. The structure was hailed as reflecting a New Church for a New Day. The following were a few of the highlights: 

  1. Church programming would be concentrated in four major program “boards” with divisions. These boards included Church and Society, Discipleship, Higher Education and Ministry, and Global Ministries. These four boards would assume the work done by ten different boards before the merger. The shift toward the importance of these general boards is reflected by the number of paragraphs it took in the Book of Disciplines to cover their functions and purposes. The 1972 Discipline devoted 62 paragraphs to the local church, 8 paragraphs to the annual conference and 491 paragraphs to the general church agencies.  
  2. While most of the boards reflected the Methodist side of the merger and would be located in Methodist locations (Nashville, Washington, and New York), one major agency would carry-over from the EUB tradition, namely, the Council on Ministries (COM). This board, in the EUB tradition, would coordinate, review and evaluate the work of the program boards, make changes in missional priorities, and recommend priorities for the church’s ministry. In other words, the program boards would report to the General Council on Ministries. This same structure would carry-over into annual conference, district, and local church structures. The Council on Ministries idea worked fairly well on the annual conference level. It did not work on the local level because it basically added an unnecessary committee layer (the church also had an Administrative Board). It faced serious problems on the general church level because the major boards did not care to be coordinated or evaluated. After several quadrennia, the Council on Ministries on the general church level was eliminated and replaced with the Connectional Table.
  3. Quotas were established to ensure diversity. The Board of Global Ministries serves as an example. One-third of the board would consist of persons picked by the Women’s Division; one-half of non-episcopal members would be women; not less than 25% would be laity; 20% would be under age 35 of whom 50% would be under 25 divided equally between those over 18 and those under 18 at the time of election; 20% should represent minority interests and 10% youth interests.  If there were any overseas representatives they would come in the at-large categories. In order to make the table large enough for everyone, there would be 72 members of the board. The Women’s Division would itself consist of 72 members. Membership in each board would include at least 8.7% former EUB during 1972-76 and at least 4.3% during 1976-80. On every board, there would be at least two from each of the following ethnic groups: Hispanic Americans, Blacks, Asian Americans and Indian Americans. It helped to be a math major to figure this out.
  4. Youth Ministry would be totally revamped. After youth demonstrations at the specially called 1970 General Conference were cheered by the delegates, the new structure basically reflected the demands of the demonstrators (who were mostly college age). Youth would operate much as United Methodist Women and United Methodist Men, more or less independently from the program boards. Youth would manage the Youth Service Fund (nearly $400,000 was being raised by youth for ministry each year). A new agency, the Council on Youth Ministry, would be staffed by youth and would represent youth concerns. These, according to the purpose statement, would be to empower youth throughout the church, facilitate renewal in the church, facilitate the formation of minority youth caucuses, be an advocate for free expression of the convictions of youth, call together youth to support change in existing socioeconomic and cultural conditions and in theological points of view. 
  5. The former Methodist Youth Fellowship with its mottos, banners, and slogans would be scrapped because it was “Mickey Mouse.” In addition, youth would be represented on all other agencies of the church. The Council on Youth Ministry would consist of twenty members, all youth (ages 12-18), of which ten would be an ethnic minority, all selected by jurisdictional youth caucuses; five conference youth coordinators (one from each jurisdiction), and a staff or board member from seven agencies of the church. In October 1976 a national gathering of conference youth coordinators was assembled to discuss youth ministry. At that meeting it was shared; in 1967 in the former Methodist Church there had been 13 youth staff under the Board of Education, 15 secretaries, 52 full-time conference directors and 1,200,000 pieces of youth curriculum produced each quarter. By 1976 the merged church counted one part-time adult staff, one secretary and 400,000 pieces of youth curriculum material per quarter. Giving to Youth Service Fund simply dried up.  

The Council on Youth Ministry was voted out of existence in 1980. As far as the merger is concerned, on the positive side conference youth work was not greatly affected either by the merger or by what was happening on the national scene. This was even more so on the local scene.