200 Years of United Methodism
An Illustrated History

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The Forties: Uncle Sam Needs You Again

Sounds of the shattering of nations echoed throughout the 1930s. The Japanese overran southern Manchuria in 1931 and invaded Shanghai in 1932. Hitler booted himself into the German chancellery in 1933. Mao led his Communist army on the "Long March" from south to north China in 1934. Mussolini attacked Ethiopia in 1935. Civil war erupted in Spain in 1936. The French suppressed a revolt in Morocco in 1937. Hitler marched on Austria in 1938, on Poland in 1939, and on France in 1940. But the United States tried to ignore this breaking of nations.

Bishop John S. Stamm (1878-1956). Photograph, ca. 1940.The Methodist General Conference of 1940, following the lead of Ernest Fremont Tittle, voted to ask the government in Washington "to persevere in the attempt to secure in Europe and in Asia a negotiated peace." Sensing it was too late for negotiations, the United Brethren declared, "We as a church will not urge our men to arms nor will we urge them to take the position of the conscientious objector." When the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor forced Uncle Sam to beckon and say, "I need you again," Methodist, Evangelical, and United Brethren youth responded. Poster for Crusade for Christ, quadrennial program of The Methodist Church, 1944-1948.Their churches supported them, but they did not bless the carnage of 1942 as they had blessed that of 1917. With none of the exuberance that accompanied the First World War, the churches followed their Christian duty, providing chaplains, distributing Bibles and religious literature, and keeping in touch with their sons and daughters in military service. Their exuberance was reserved for the cause of building a better world on the rubble of war.

A "Crusade for a New World Order" was preached by Methodist Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam in 1943. Oxnam's proposal, which urged Methodists to support international collaboration after the war in order to guard against a return to American isolationism, became the "Crusade for Christ" in 1944--approved by the same General Conference that voted for an all-out effort to win the war. This crusade promoted the United Nations and sought to raise $25 million to help refugees, a goal that was oversubscribed by more than $2 million.

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