200 Years of United Methodism
An Illustrated History

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Not all Methodists in the North, however, were panting to advance their church's interests at the expense of their southern brothers and sisters. Not all marched to the beat of a political drum. But even the formerly southward leaning Philadelphia Conference pledged its loyalty to the Union cause, and a preacher in Newport, across the Ohio from Cincinnati, had his church decorated with flags and brass eagles one Sunday in 1861 and prayed for the hanging of Confederate President Jefferson Davis on the Mason-Dixon Line. Many northern Methodists agreed with the Methodist ministers of Boston, who in 1862 called for sending northern missionaries into the Confederacy, and who in 1865 insisted on the execution of convicted traitors. Such behavior was at odds with the words and deeds of non-church-going President Abraham Lincoln, whose second inaugural address pleaded for "malice toward none" and "charity for all."

But malice's stock rose during the war and charity was limited to giving money. John Wesley's autographed letter to William Wilberforce on slavery, February 24, 1791, written six days before his death at age 88.Northern malice is understandable, not justifiable, when it is remembered that the good of preserving the Union and the evil of slavery were the issues at stake. In this war to eradicate slavery and ensure the Union, there were, one scholar has calculated, 300,000 Methodist soldiers in the Union armies out of a membership of almost one million. At least 500 Methodist chaplains marched with the Blue, and 458 Methodist ministers gave their services to the United States Christian Commission as volunteers doing work similar to that of chaplains. This commission was supported by the kind of charity that increased during the war--the giving of money. Charitable contributions also made possible the printing of Bibles and tracts for soldiers and sailors and the promoting of temperance with regard to alcoholic beverages.

While Methodism, North and South, experienced the full intensity of the Civil War, the United Brethren and Evangelical churches were not unaffected. At the outbreak of hostilities Bishop Jacob John Glossbrenner remained with the United Brethren in Virginia who were, with few exceptions, anti-slavery in attitude, but they tried to keep from offending the Confederate authorities. Later the bishop was able to move back and forth across the Gray and Blue lines, so respected was he for his impartiality. But his refusal to take sides caused him to be coldly received after the war by those in the North who could not say, in Walt Whitman's words, "My enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead." Chippendale Chair (ca. 1750) belonging to the Otterbein parsonage; oak chair (early 18th century) on which Wesley stood to preach at Stockport in 1765; and Pennsylvania Dutch chair (early 19th century) used by the founding bishops of the Evangelical Church in their visit to the church in Orwigsburg, Pa.When they listened, however, to Bishop Glossbrenner's description of his wartime administrative and pastoral accomplishments, they praised him for his heroic work. The Evangelical Association, which lost a circuit of churches in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, blamed slavery and the war on Satan and called for "every proper measure" to be used to suppress the rebellion. After the war it insisted that just retribution be required of the South.

When General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Court House in the spring of 1865, the tidal wave of civil war was stilled and the tide of nationalism began to flow once more. Nationalism would remain a potent force in the reunited United States, just as pietism continued to characterize the Methodist, United Brethren, and Evangelical churches long after the period we have called the tide of pietism. Nevertheless, after the Civil War nationalism was an ebbing tide in its significance for the churches of what is now United Methodism. Idealism was the flowing tide.

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