Remembering, Celebrating 50th Anniversary of UMC
Remembering, Celebrating 50th Anniversary of UMC
Congregations across the connection are invited to celebrate the 50th anniversary commemorating the event on April 23, 1968, when leaders of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church declared the creation of a new denomination, The United Methodist Church.
With the words “Lord of the Church, we are united in Thee, in Thy Church and now in The United Methodist Church,” the new denomination was birthed at the constituting General Conference being held that year in Dallas. The words, said in unison over joined hands, by Bishop Reuben H. Mueller of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke of The Methodist Church, signified the formation of one of the largest denominations in the world, representing 53 countries.
“We are celebrating 50 years since a historic coming together among likeminded Christians of different regions, languages, cultures and customs because of their common grounding in Wesleyan spirituality and practice,” said the Rev. Fred Day, general secretary of the General Commission of Archives and History. “The historical event also marks the formation of a church free from the institutionalized segregation of the former Central Jurisdiction. Now white and African-American United Methodists lived into a Church sharing annual conferences, same bishops and same appointment systems as never before.
“To observe the anniversary, the General Commission of Archives and History and the General Commission on Religion and Race, born with the merger to insure the inclusivity intended with the 1968 union, are collaborating on producing shared 50th anniversary resources,” Day said.
Commemorative events are set to occur at the conference, district and local church levels beginning April 22, the Sunday before the April 23 anniversary, through May 20, Heritage Sunday. This year, the Heritage Sunday theme is “Jubilee: The 50th Anniversary of The United Methodist Church,” giving congregations an opportunity to reflect on the importance of history while also vision casting about the future.
Numerous resources have been developed and made available specifically for the 50th anniversary of the uniting conference, including liturgical materials, the original uniting conference video, and a reference guide to the church’s history. UMC.org, the official website of The United Methodist Church, is featuring anniversary content at UMC.org/umc50. A hashtag -- #UMC50 – is being used for all anniversary-themed content across social media channels and the denomination’s official Facebook page is featuring Throwback Thursday (#TBT) content from the momentous event.
“We hope United Methodists across the connection will use the teaching and worship resources provided in this jubilee year,” Day said.
Formation of The United Methodist Church
On April 23, 1968, The United Methodist Church was created when Bishop Reuben H. Mueller, representing The Evangelical United Brethren Church, and Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke of The Methodist Church joined hands at the constituting General Conference in Dallas, Texas.
With the words, "Lord of the Church, we are united in Thee, in Thy Church and now in The United Methodist Church," the new denomination was given birth by two churches that had distinguished histories and influential ministries in various parts of the world.
Theological traditions steeped in the Protestant Reformation and Wesleyanism and relationships that dated back almost two hundred years facilitated the union.
Read more about the history of The United Methodist Church by year here.
Methodist History: The Uniting Conference of 1968
Amid tumult of 1968, a church came together
The year 1968 convulsed with assassinations, riots, war in Vietnam and student protests against that war. The Troubles revved up in Northern Ireland, and Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia.
At a time when it seemed much of the world was violently splitting apart, a group of Wesleyan Christians peacefully and joyfully were coming together. Heather Hahn has the story here.
The merger that created The United Methodist Church not only birthed a new denomination, it abolished a painful part of Methodist history: The Central Jurisdiction, which segregated African-Americans from their Methodist brethren. Joey Butler has the story here.
Voices of the Central Jurisdiction
The Central Jurisdiction was a racially segregated body of the Methodist Church from 1939-1968. In both archived and current interviews, former members of the jurisdiction discuss its history. Watch a video here.
Do you know why we are called United Methodists?
There have been many nicknames for the band of believers who followed the lead of John and Charles Wesley in their early ministry in England: Enthusiasts, Sacramentarians, Bible Moths, Methodists. Their methods, values, and tradition laid the groundwork for what would become The United Methodist Church, 240 years after John and Charles Wesley began their Holy Club at college. Fran Coode Walsh has the story here.
Clayride: A Gallop Through United Methodist History
The film “Clayride: A Gallop Through United Methodist History” is a clever, fun presentation of 200 years of Methodist history set to music and claymation. The project was produced in 1984 and it’s still a YouTube favorite with confirmation classes and members of The United Methodist Church.
Uniting Conference sermon still talked about
For the most important sermon of the 1968 conference uniting the Methodist Church and Evangelical United Brethren Church, organizers turned to “Mr. Methodist,” the Rev. Albert C. Outler.
The famed Wesley scholar and ecumenist also was a top-tier preacher, and he measured up to the historic occasion, delivering an address that’s still talked about 50 years later. Sam Hodges has the story here.
Listen to part of Outler's sermon here.
New York Conference Connections
Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke, the episcopal leader of the New York Area at the time, shook hands with Evangelical United Brethren Bishop Reuben H. Mueller, symbolically joining the two churches during the Uniting Conference in Dallas. Wicke had chaired the Methodist committee that drew up the proposal leading to the merger.
Wicke was elected to the episcopacy in 1948 and served the New York Area from 1960 until his retirement in 1972.
The New York Conference sent a delegation of eight clergy and eight laypersons to the Dallas conference. The clergy delegates were Harold A. Bosley, Douglas F. Verdin, Roy Nichols, Richard A. Thornburg, Walter L. Scranton, William M. James, Burton F. Tarr, and H. Burnham Kirkland. Laity were Mrs. George E. Transom, Robert W. Preusch, William T. Staubach, Jr., Ethel R. Johnson, Louis C. Hauser, Mrs. Everett B. Kennedy, Howard H. Darling, and William H. Veale.