200 Years of United Methodism
An Illustrated History

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The Tide Turns

The twentieth century floated in on a tide of optimism. Material progress was everywhere apparent: household plumbing and running water, the steam engine, electric lights, refrigeration, sanitation, anesthesia and antisepsis, typewriters and lawnmowers, telegraph and telephone. America's cup was running over with material blessings. So wasn't it reasonable to expect that men and women living in better conditions were becoming better persons?

Silver plate Communion set: bread plate, flagon for wine, and chalice. American, ca. 1850.Yes, it was reasonable to believe people were becoming better, said those who felt the time was ripe for overcoming old divisions. Conferences were called to deal with possible church reunions and mergers. Northern and southern Methodists met at Cape May, New Jersey, in 1876, reviewed their split, and found a basis for fraternity. They put together a joint commission in 1898 to consider reunion and produced a joint hymnal in 1905. Meanwhile, Methodists of the world, joined by two United Brethren delegates, had enjoyed their first ecumenical conference in London in 1881. Merger discussions were under way between Evangelicals and United Brethren, between Evangelicals and Methodists, and between United Brethren and Methodist Protestants. In addition to these "all in the family" talks, there was strong support from the churches that now compose The United Methodist Church for the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, founded in 1908.

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