200 Years of United Methodism
An Illustrated History

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Methodist Episcopal bishops, addressing their General Conference of 1936, acknowledged that when Christians insisted that "Christian principles should be applied to industry," their insistence was "nervously met by the charge that the speaker had become a radical." Bishop John McKendree Springer (1873-1963). Photograph, ca. 1950.Nevertheless, they continued, "without now debating the merit or demerit of the so-called capitalistic system, it may still be said with assurance that the best way to preserve it for its claimed service is to make an honest endeavor to purge it of its wrongs and excesses." Clearly, religious leaders were being impelled by the Great Depression to apply Christian principles to economics. But for how many buyers and sellers did they speak?

Politicians, being good at counting votes, knew Methodists were divided--4.7 million in the Methodist Episcopal Church, 2.8 million in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and just under 200,000 in the Methodist Protestant Church. Conversations aimed at bringing these three denominations together had been carried on during the 1920s and 1930s, stumbling always on the sin of racism. How was the considerable number of blacks in the Methodist Episcopal Church to be accommodated in a united church? The answer given was to divide the United States into sections, jurisdictions. All but one of these would be white and geographical. One jurisdiction, however, would overlap all the other jurisdictions and be the exclusive realm of black Methodists.

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