History of the Southern Methodist Church

In the latter part of the year 1739, eight or ten persons, who appeared to be deeply convinced of sin, and earnestly groaning for redemption, came to John Wesley in London. They desired, as did two or three more the next day, that he would spend some time with them in prayer, and advise them how to flee from the wrath to come, which they saw continually hanging over their heads. That they might have more time for this great work, he appointed a day when they might all come together, which from thenceforward they did every week, namely, on Thursday, in the evening. To these, and as many more as desired to join with them (for their number increased daily), he gave those advices from time to time which he judged most needful for them and they always concluded their meeting with prayer suited to their several necessities.

This was the rise of the United Society, first in Europe, and then in America. Such a society is no other than “a company of men having the form and seeking the power of godliness united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their salvation.”

Methodism was introduced in America by George Whitefield, Robert Strawbridge, Philip Embury and others, the former having come to America prior to 1744. The first conference was held in 1773. The Articles of Religion as abridged by Wesley, the Standards of Doctrines, and the General Rules were adopted by the Christmas Conference of 1784.

In spite of many difficulties and differences of opinion as to the law and usages of the church and many disaffections and secessions, the Methodist Episcopal Church made steady progress.

By the time the General Conference met in 1844, sectional differences had become so acute that many days were spent in debate on these questions. When it became apparent that no compromise could be made, the Plan of Separation was adopted. By a vote of 135 to 18 this general conference agreed that the delegates representing slave-holding states might set up a separate general conference. By a vote of 139 to 17 it was agreed that any minister might choose whether he would remain in The Methodist Episcopal Church or align himself with the southern delegates. By a vote of 148 to 10, it was agreed that there should be an equitable division of all property belonging to the Church.

By agreement of the delegates from the southern states, the first General Conference of  the Methodist Episcopal Church, South met in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 1, 1845. From that time until the meeting of the General Conference in Birmingham, Alabama, in May of 1938, this church made wonderful progress and numbered its members by the millions.

The Birmingham General Conference in 1938 decided to enter into a union with the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Protestant Church. When the three were formally united in 1939, there were many in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South who refused to enter into the union because of the modernistic tendencies found in the United Church.

A layman’s organization for the preservation of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South was formed and culminated in a convocation in Columbia, South Carolina, on January 14, 1940, at which four hundred (400) representatives of the Church set up a provisional plan for preserving the Church. The courts granted to the United Church all properties and the control of the name, Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The dauntless few, maintaining their earnest convictions to perpetuate true Methodism and fundamental doctrines, organized the South Carolina Conference. The first Annual Session of the South Carolina Conference (now the Eastern Conference) was held at Turbeville, South Carolina, in June, 1940.

Some seven hundred (700) persons attended the first conference session with Mr. B. W. Crouch presiding and Miss Mildred Huggins as secretary. From that time The Southern Methodist Church has maintained a steady growth. In 1942 The Mid-South Annual Conference was organized in Atlanta, Georgia, and in 1970 the Conference was divided, forming two (2) more annual conferences; The Alabama-Florida-Georgia Conference and The South-Western Conference, composed of Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. The Mid-South Conference is composed of Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky. The Eastern Conference is composed of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.

(Taken from the Discipline of The Southern Methodist Church)

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