Methodists in America

The first official organization in the United States occurred in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1784 with the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church at the Christmas Conference with Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke as the leaders.

Though John Wesley originally wanted the Methodists to stay within the Church of England, the American Revolution decisively separated the Methodists in the American colonies from the life and sacraments of its English counterpart. In 1784 after unsuccessful attempts to have the Church of England send a bishop to start a new church in the colonies, Wesley decisively set aside fellow priest Thomas Coke as superintendent (bishop) to organize a separate Methodist Society. Together with Coke, Wesley sent a revision of the Anglican Prayerbook and the Articles of Religion which were received by the Baltimore Christmas Conference of 1784, officially establishing the new church (The Methodist Episcopal Church). The conference was held at the Lovely Lane Methodist Church, considered the Mother Church of American Methodism. John Wesley did not approve of the actions of the American Society; he would continue to be in correspondence with various people about his objections.

The new church grew rapidly in the young country as it employed circuit riders, many of whom were laymen, to travel the mostly rural nation by horseback to preach the Gospel and to establish churches until there was scarcely any village in the United States without a Methodist presence. With 4000 circuit riders by 1844, the Methodist Episcopal Church rapidly became the largest Protestant denomination in the country.

In the more than 220 years since 1784, Methodism in the United States, like many other Protestant denominations, has seen a number of divisions and mergers. In 1830, the Methodist Protestant Church split from the Methodist Episcopal Church over the issue of laity having a voice and vote in the administration of the church, insisting that clergy should not be the only ones to have any determination in how the church was to be operated. In 1844, the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church split into two conferences because of tensions over slavery and the power of bishops in the denomination.

The two general conferences, Methodist Episcopal Church (the northern section) and Methodist Espiscopal Church, South remained separate until 1939. That year, the northern and southern Methodist Episcopal Churches and the Methodist Protestant Church merged to create The Methodist Church. The uniting conference took place at First Methodist Church (now First United Methodist Church) of Marion, Indiana.

1968 merger

On April 23, 1968, the United Methodist Church was created when the Evangelical United Brethren Church (represented by Bishop Reuben H. Mueller) and The Methodist Church (represented by Bishop Lloyd Christ Wicke) 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 the two churches that had distinguished histories and influential ministries in various parts of the world.

Combining the personal holiness emphasis of the evangelical influence in the church with the outreach emphasis from the social gospel proponents has created a combination of practices within the United Methodist Church.