Schism in American Methodism

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Keywords

United Methodist Church
American Methodism
church property
racism
holiness
schism

How to Cite

Melton, J. G. (2021). Schism in American Methodism: Polity, Power, and Property. Methodist Review, 13. Retrieved from https://methodistreview.org/index.php/mr/article/view/266 (Original work published November 9, 2021)

Abstract

The current efforts to form a new Global Methodist Church (GMC) present an occasion to survey schisms in Methodism and reconsider United Methodism’s lack of any provisions providing for groups to withdraw from affiliation. Any group wishing to withdraw while maintaining equity in church property requires special legislation by a General Conference, such legislation drawing on precedents set by the formation of The Methodist Episcopal Church, South (1844–45) and The Colored (now Christian) Methodist Episcopal Church (1870). Throughout Methodist history, racial and theological differences motivating schism have always been joined by ecclesiological critiques. Methodist polity has been a significant discouragement to schism and thus most schisms have included and at times hinged upon protests against the church’s centralized authority, the power of bishops (especially in the stationing of ministers), and especially the collective ownership of church property. As schisms proceed, the dominating issue frequently becomes the control of property.

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