The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, or Methodist Episcopal Church
South (MEC,S), was the Methodist denomination resulting from the
19th-century split over the issue of slavery in the Methodist
Episcopal Church (MEC). Disagreement on this issue had been increasing
in strength for decades between churches of the North and South; in
1844 it resulted in a schism at the General Conference of the MEC held
in Louisville, Kentucky.
This body maintained its own polity for nearly 100 years. It did not
reunite with the elder
Methodist Episcopal Church
Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist
Protestant Church (earlier separated from Methodist Episcopals in
1828) until 1939, then formed the Methodist Church. The national
denomination merged in 1968 with the Evangelical United Brethren
Church, to form the United Methodist Church, now one of the largest
and most widely spread religious denominations in America. In 1940,
some more theologically conservative MEC,S congregations, which
dissented from the 1939 merger, later forming the Southern Methodist
2 Civil War
2.1 African Americans
2.2 Growth in late 19th century
4 See also
6.1 Primary sources
7 External links
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was appalled by slavery in the
British colonies. When the
Methodist Episcopal Church
Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) was
founded in the
United States at the famous "Christmas Conference" in
Baltimore with the synod/meeting of ministers at small plain Lovely
Lane Chapel in the city's waterfront district on Lovely Lane, off
German (later Redwood) Street (between South Calvert Street and South
Street) in December 1784, the denomination officially opposed slavery
very early. Numerous Methodist missionaries toured the South in the
"Great Awakening" and tried to convince slaveholders to manumit their
slaves. In the first two decades after the American Revolutionary War,
a number did free their slaves. The number of free blacks increased
markedly at this time, especially in the Upper South.
During the early nineteenth century, Methodists and Baptists in the
South began to modify their approach in order to gain support from
common planters, yeomen, and slaves. They began to argue for better
treatment of slaves, saying that the Bible acknowledged slavery but
that Christianity had a paternalistic role to improve conditions.
The invention of the cotton gin had enabled profitable cultivation of
cotton in new areas of the South, increasing the demand for slaves.
Manumissions nearly ceased and, after slave rebellions, the states
made them extremely difficult to accomplish. Northern Methodist
congregations increasingly opposed slavery, and some members began to
be active in the abolitionist movement. The southern church
accommodated it as part of a legal system.
But, even in the South, Methodist clergy were not supposed to own
slaves. In 1840, the Rev. James Osgood Andrew, a bishop living in
Oxford, Georgia, bought a slave. Fearing that she would end up with an
inhumane owner if sold, Andrew kept her but let her work
independently. The 1840 MEC General Conference
considered the matter, but did not expel Andrew. Four years later,
Andrew married a woman who owned a slave inherited from her mother,
making the bishop the owner of two slaves. As bishop, he was
considered to have obligations both in the North and South and was
criticized for holding slaves.
The 1844 General Conference voted to suspend Bishop Andrew from
exercising his episcopal office until he gave up the slaves.
Southern delegates to the conference disputed the authority of a
General Conference to discipline bishops. The cultural differences
that had divided the nation during the mid-19th century were also
dividing the Methodist Episcopal Church. The 1844 dispute led
Methodists in the South to break off and form a separate denomination,
Methodist Episcopal Church, South
Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MEC,S).
The statistics for 1859 showed the MEC,S had as enrolled members some
511,601 whites and 197,000 blacks (nearly all of whom were slaves),
and 4,200 Indians. In 1858 MEC,S operated 106 schools and colleges.
American Civil War
American Civil War resulted in widespread destruction of property,
including church buildings and institutions, but it was marked by a
series of strong revivals that began in General Robert E. Lee's army
and spread throughout the region. Chaplains tended the wounded after
John Berry McFerrin (1807-1887) recalled:
At Chickamauga, the slaughter was tremendous on both sides, but the
Confederates held the field. I remained on the battlefield eleven
days, nursing the sick, ministering to the wounded, and praying for
the dying. The sight was awful. Thousands of men killed and wounded.
They lay thick all around, shot in every possible manner, and the
wounded dying every day. Among the wounded were many Federal soldiers.
To these I ministered, prayed with them, and wrote letters by flag of
truce to their friends in the North.
After the Civil War, when African American slaves gained freedom, many
left the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. They joined either the
independent black denominations of the African Methodist Episcopal
Church founded in Philadelphia or the African Methodist Episcopal Zion
Church founded in New York, but some also joined the (Northern)
Methodist Episcopal Church, which planted new congregations in the
South. The two independent black denominations both sent missionaries
to the South after the war to aid freedmen, and attracted hundreds of
thousands of new members, from both Baptists and Methodists, and new
converts to Christianity. Out of 200,000 African-American members in
the MEC,S in 1860, by 1866 only 49,000 remained.
in 1870, most of the remaining African-American members of the MEC,S
split off on friendly terms with white colleagues to form the Colored
Methodist Episcopal Church, now the Christian Methodist Episcopal
Church, taking with them $1.5 million in buildings and properties. The
new denomination avoided the Republican politics of the AME and AME
Zion congregations. It had more than 3,000 churches, more than 1,200
traveling preachers, 2,500 church-based preachers, about 140,000
members, and held 22 annual conferences, presided over by four
bishops.[clarification needed]
Growth in late 19th century
Annual Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, as of
The MEC,S energetically tended its base: in 1880 it had 798,862
members (mostly white), and 1,066,377 in 1886. It expanded its
missionary activity in Mexico. Although usually avoiding politics,
MEC,S in 1886 denounced divorce and called for Prohibition, stating:
The public has awakened to the necessity of both legal and moral
suasion to control the great evils stimulated and fostered by the
liquor traffic. We recognize in the license system a sin against
society. Its essential immorality cannot be affected by the question
whether the license be high or low. The effectual prohibition of the
manufacture, sale, and use of intoxicating liquors would be
emancipation from the greatest curse that now afflicts our race. The
total removal of the cause of intemperance is the only remedy. This is
the greatest moral question now before our people.... Resolved, That
the time has now come when the church, through its press and pulpit,
its individual and organized agencies, should speak out in strong
language and stronger action in favor of the total removal of this
After 1844 the Methodists in the South increased their emphasis on an
educated clergy. Ambitious young preachers from humble, rural
backgrounds attended college, and were often appointed to serve
congregations in towns. There they could build larger churches that
paid decent salaries; they gained social prestige in a highly visible
community leadership position. These ministers turned the pulpit into
a profession, thus emulating the Presbyterians and Episcopalians. They
created increasingly complex denominational bureaucracies to meet a
series of pressing needs: defending slavery, evangelizing soldiers
during the Civil War, promoting temperance reform, contributing to
foreign missions (see American Southern Methodist Episcopal Mission),
and supporting local colleges. The new urban middle-class ministry
increasingly left their country cousins far behind. As the historian
of the transformation explains, "Denomination building—that is, the
bureaucratization of religion in the late antebellum South—was an
inherently innovative and forward-looking task. It was, in a word,
The returns for 1892 showed:
Traveling preachers: 5,368
Local preachers: 6,481
White members: 1,282,750
Colored members: 357
Indian members: 10,759
SS teachers: 95,204
SS students: 754,223
Methodist education had suffered during the Civil War, as most
academies were closed. Some recovered in the late 19th century, but
demand decreased as public education had been established for the
first time by Reconstruction-era legislatures across the South. It was
generally a segregated system, and racial segregation was established
by law for public facilities under
Jim Crow rules conditions in the
late 19th century, after white Democrats regained control of state
legislatures in the late 1870s.
In 1892 the Methodists had a total of 179 schools and colleges, all
for white students. They had 892 teachers and 16,600 students,
resulting in a high student/teacher ratio. The church in 1881 opened
Holding Institute, which operated as a boarding school for nearly a
century in Laredo, Texas. It instructed numerous students from Mexico
during its years of operation.
The colleges were in scarcely better condition, though philanthropy of
the late 19th and early 20th centuries dramatically changed their
development. Most were primarily high-school level academies offering
a few collegiate courses. The dramatic exception was Vanderbilt
University, at Nashville, with a million-dollar campus and an
endowment of $900,000, thanks to the Vanderbilt family. Much smaller
and poorer were
Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, with its two
affiliated fitting-schools and Woman's College; Emory College, in
Atlanta (as the infusion of Candler family money was far in the
future); Emory & Henry, in Southwest Virginia; Wofford, with its
two fitting-schools, in South Carolina; Trinity, in North
Carolina—soon to be endowed by the Duke family and change its name;
Central, in Missouri; Southern, in Alabama; Southwestern, in Texas;
Wesleyan, in Kentucky; Millsaps, in Mississippi; Centenary, in
Louisiana; Hendrix, in Arkansas; and Pacific, in California.
The growing need for a theology school west of the
was not addressed until the founding of Southern Methodist University
Texas in 1911. The denomination also supported several women's
colleges, although they were more like finishing schools or academies
until the twentieth century. At that time, they were developed to meet
the standards of new accrediting agencies, such as the Southern
Association of Colleges and Schools. The oldest Methodist woman's
Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia; other Methodist
colleges that were formerly women's institutions are Lagrange College
Andrew College in Georgia, Columbia College in South Carolina, and
Greensboro College in North Carolina.
In March 1900, the East Columbia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal
Church-South purchased an existing school called Milton Academy, built
Seventh-day Adventist Church
Seventh-day Adventist Church in Milton, Oregon. Renamed
"Columbia College", it opened September 24, 1900 under Methodist
leadership. Due to declining enrollment and lack of funds, the school
was closed in 1925. First year enrollment was 131 pupils, under Dean
W.C. Howard. The original wood building was replaced in 1910 by a
four-story stone building. It has been adapted for use as the city
hall of the combined cities of Milton-Freewater, Oregon.
In the 1930s, the MEC and the Methodist
Protestant Church, other
Methodist denominations still operating in the South, agreed to ordain
women either as local elders and deacons (the MEC) or full clergy (the
Protestant Church). The MEC,S did not ordain women as
pastors at the time of the 1939 merger that formed the Methodist
The MEC,S was responsible for founding four of the South's top
Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Duke Divinity
Candler School of Theology
Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and Perkins
School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. Vanderbilt
severed its ties with the denomination in 1914. Duke, Candler, and
Perkins maintain a relationship with the United Methodist Church. All
four enroll students who are primarily from mainline Protestant
denominations, but religion is not a test for admittance. The
denomination's publishing house, opened in 1854 in Nashville,
Tennessee, eventually became the headquarters of the United Methodist
Publishing House. See
Abingdon Press and Cokesbury.
Category:American Methodist Episcopal, South bishops
United States portal
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Methodist Episcopal Church
African Methodist Episcopal Church
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
United Methodist Church
^ Charles Elliott,
Methodist Episcopal Church
Methodist Episcopal Church (1855). History of the
Great Secession from the
Methodist Episcopal Church
Methodist Episcopal Church in the Year 1845:
eventuating in the organization of the new church, entitled the
"Methodist Episcopal Church, South.". Swormstedt & Poe, for the
Methodist Episcopal Church.
^ David Young; et al. (1860). The Methodist Almanac: 1861.
^ Alexander pp 71-72
^ Alexander p 110
^ Schweiger p. 85
^ Alexander p 133
^ "John H. McNeely, "Holding Institute"". The Handbook of Texas.
Retrieved September 30, 2009.
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All the Divisions in American Methodism, A Look Back in Time from 1771
until 1939 and "Union"
Methodist Episcopal Church
Methodist Episcopal Church (CME Church) ... By Edward A.
Hatfield at New Georgia Encyclopedia, 11/8/2007
History of the great secession from the
Methodist Episcopal Church
Methodist Episcopal Church ...
By Charles Elliott
History of Milton and