Although the weather tried to drown the fun, it was a grand celebration – with ice cream/sorbet, ministry T-shirts and hula hoops Thursday evening as the NC Conference celebrated the 50th anniversary of the unification of the Methodist church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church along with the dissolution of the Central Jurisdiction, a segregated group of African American congregations, in 1968.
A special thanks to the United Methodist Foundation, Camping & Retreat Ministries, and Methodist University for making this enjoyable evening possible.
The worship portion of the evening featured a gospel choir with members from Beauty Spot, Piney Grove, and St. George UMCs in the Gateway District. A procession of banners took place while the choir led the congregation in the singing of “This Little Light of Mine.”
Bishop Ward shared some of the history of the North Carolina Conference. Bill Gattis and Horace Ferguson were recognized as having been ordained deacons in 1968.
The Rev. Alfred Day, Chief Executive at the Commission on Archives & History, took us back to 1968, recounting some of the turbulent events of that year, and gave some cultural perspective around the unification of the denomination and the impact of the dissolution of the Central Jurisdiction.
Day’s summary of the separate and uniting histories of the Methodist Church, the Evangelical United Brethren Church, and the segregated Central Conference set the stage for his message: that the United Methodist Church, born in 1968—“in tumultuous times, tragic times, and threshold times”—today finds itself facing another opportunity to embrace God’s creative Spirit as it moves through the Special General Conference in St. Louis in 2019.
Day holds that the Church is facing an opportunity to renew its ministry of the dignity and rights of all people, and to affirm the 1968 decision that “we are better together.”
Day drew parallels between the political, historical, and cultural clashes of 1968 and the present issues of liberation, inclusion, self-determinism, globalization, global migration, refugee crises, human trafficking, and political conservatism and neo-nationalism. Within the 50 years of the history of the UMC, he described the rise of separate groups and caucuses within the Church, highlighting the tension between Methodism’s unique emphasis on both social and personal holiness then and now.