The 50th Anniversary of the Formation of The United Methodist Church
April 23 marked the 50th Anniversary of the formation of The United Methodist Church. Fred Day, the executive for the United Methodist work in history writes, “Fifty years ago, Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) Bishop Rueben H. Mueller and Methodist Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke joined hands over a table laden with symbols—the Bible, hymnals, books of Discipline and a 307-page “Plan of Union.” 1,300 delegates and 10,000 visitors met in Dallas, Texas on April 23, 1968 proclaiming the formation of the newly-constituted United Methodist Church. 10.3 million Methodists and 750,000 members of the EUB Church merged into one of the largest Protestant denominations in the world. Flags from fifty-three countries testified to the breadth of the new reality.”
For a church like St. Peter’s, not much changed other than the name of the denomination. But name changes can be interesting. The congregation was founded in October 1880 and was named St. Peter’s Methodist Episcopal Church. Within a year St. Peter’s was changed to First. In 1980, the named First was changed back to the original name of St. Peter’s. Across those years Methodist Episcopal was changed to Methodist in 1939 when three branches of Methodism merged. In 1968, with the merger of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, the name became United Methodist. The United in our name is an important reminder of the heritage from the Evangelical United Brethren Church and not intended to be an expression about the degree of unity found in the church.
So across the history of this congregation, it has used all these names:
- St. Peter’s Methodist Episcopal Church – 1880
- First Methodist Episcopal Church – 1881-1939
- First Methodist Church – 1939-1968
- First United Methodist Church – 1968-1980
- St. Peter’s United Methodist Church – 1980 and continuing
You may be wondering about the names of the denomination, especially when it was called the Methodist Episcopal Church. Prior to 1784, the Methodists in the colonies were tied to John Wesley and the Methodist movement in England. After the colonies achieved independence, it was no longer possible for that to continue. So John Wesley sent over a plan for organization and at Christmas in 1784, the Methodist preachers in America became a separate organization and took the name the Methodist Episcopal Church. Inclusion of the name “Episcopal” did not signify a relationship to the Episcopal Church but that the leadership would include bishops. As indicated above, the name of the denomination was altered in 1939 and 1968.
St. Peter’s Church historian