200 Years of United Methodism
An Illustrated History

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A second hesitant step was taken when the churches began to establish colleges. The Methodists had founded a college, Cokesbury in Abingdon, Maryland, in 1787, but it lasted only a few years. In 1820 the General Conference urged annual conferences to initiate colleges. Title-page of early Native American Hymnbook with music: INDIAN MELODIES by Thomas Commuck, published in New York by G. Lane and C. B. Tippett for the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1845.A number were started, the first two permanent ones being McKendree in Illinois and Randolph-Macon in Virginia. The oldest college for women in the world is Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, which became a Methodist school in 1839. Otterbein University in Ohio, started in 1847, is the oldest United Brethren institution and the second American school to enroll women on the college level on equal standing with men. The Evangelical Association began an academy in New Berlin, Pennsylvania, in 1856; it is now Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Toward the close of the period under consideration schools for training ministers were founded, and then in the face of intense opposition from those who believed formal theological education would diminish the preachers' ability to convert simple souls. Representative page from the Commuck hymnbook."Don't you see," urged one United Brethren editor, "that three or seven years is too long a period to doom a pious youth to Christian theology?" The Methodist Discipline of 1784 advised preachers to "read the most useful books, and that regularly and constantly," but it hedged this counsel by saying: "Gaining knowledge is a good thing; but saving souls is better . . . . If you can do but one, let your studies alone. We would throw by all the libraries in the world, rather than be guilty of the loss of one soul." Many, however, of the converted souls began to send their sons, and occasionally their daughters, to church colleges. And these graduates began to clamor for a more sophisticated pulpit diet, with the result that Methodist schools of theology came into being in New England in 1841 and at Evanston Illinois in 1854. United Brethren and Evangelical seminaries were founded much later, 1871 and 1876 respectively.

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