The United Methodist Church at 40: Where Have We Come From?

Russell E. Richey

Abstract


As United Methodism commemorates its fortieth anniversary, it needs to look back far past 1968 into its earlier denominational history in order to discern the peculiar circumstances, trends, and influences that have conspired and coalesced—for good or for ill—to make it what it is today. By 1884, the centennial of its founding as a church, Methodism had become a horizontally and vertically integrated system. It could make decisions and implement them. It was also a segregated system, a sexist system, and a racist system. And the 1939 unification ratified its faults and undercut its strengths. It is to 1884 and 1939, rather than to 1968, that United Methodists should look for explanations of the inertias that led eventually to failures of evangelism and mission, to local and connectional self-preoccupation, to leadership bent inward on institutional maintenance. Only by understanding how it came to be in its current situation and condition can United Methodism hope to find a way forward into its future.

Keywords


Methodism; United Methodist Church

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Methodist Review, ISSN: 1946-5254 (online), copyright © 2009-2018 by The Methodist Review, Inc.