Our Unfinished Business: What Really Happened in 1968
When the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) and Methodist churches united 50 years ago, the EUB leaders insisted on an integrated denomination. But many questions of race and justice remained unresolved. As the church considers its response to homosexuality, how does racism shape the conversation? How must the church and its people redefine or reinvent themselves so that we can stand united in Christ? How is the church “forever beginning?”
- Article: “Fifty Years On, the Central Jurisdiction’s Shadow Still Looms,” by Joey Butler, United Methodist News Service. The 1968 merger that created The United Methodist Church birthed a new denomination and also sought to address racial segregation by abolishing the all-black Central Jurisdiction.
- Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-6, 11-16
Small Group Session Agenda
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way; Thou who hast by Thy might led us into the light: keep us forever on Thy path we pray.
God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come: we gather in Your Name thankful for Your abiding presence. You’ve breathed Your dignity into our very essence and we move in response to Your voice. Thank You for being our Great Hope among the adversities, joys, and stony paths of life. Thank You for claiming each one of us and for giving us great purpose and identity in You. In this time together, incline our hearts to Your testimonies, give us a teachable heart and the ability to do all that You ask of us. Establish Your word and confirm Your promises in this moment. Speak the truths that You would have us echo. Bless us in this time together and enable us to wholly focus on and be strengthened by all that is You. In Jesus’ Name, we pray and ask it all. Amen.
In the gift of this moment, we affirm that we are divinely loved and lovable.
We are the children of God.
Together, we will learn from the actions and words of one another.
Christ’s lessons on love are centered in how we treat others and in how we treat ourselves.
We will exercise courage in this study as we share stories of struggle and strength.
We will stay at the table and receive those stories with grace.
We will not be afraid to launch into the deep.
We will commit to the vulnerability necessary to allow God to break us open.
We will set and respect boundaries and honor confidentiality together.
When uncertainty arises, we will remember the Spirit of “peace that passes our own understanding” and can intercede for us.
We will remember that even when we don’t feel “United,”
The uniting love of Christ can reveal a pathway to greater
wisdom and mutual respect.
No matter what, there is a place for each one of us in this study together.
Let us hold each other up in prayer, hold each other accountable in love, and
trust that our God is making all things new.
Thank you for the gift of being present to one another in this holy time.
poem by James Weldon Johnson "Lift Every Voice and Sing,"
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.
Video with Bishop Forrest Stith and Rev. Sarah Schlieckert
Bishop Stith is a retired bishop, president emeritus of the African-American Methodist Heritage Center, and bishop in residence at Asbury UMC in Washington, D.C.
Rev. Schlieckert is pastor of Calvary UMC in Waldorf, Md., and a child of the Evangelical United Brethren Church. Her great-grandfather and grandfather were EUB pastors and her pastor-father was born into the EUB Church.
Head & Heart Discussion
- What did you learn from the video?
- How do we as Methodists come to grips with the fact that the creation of the Central Jurisdiction represented institutionalized racism within our denomination? In what ways is that racism still shaping United Methodism today?
- What must we learn from the sin of creating a hierarchy of human worth?
BEYOND THIS SESSION
Prayer and Pathway to Journaling
- What surprised you or caught your attention?
- How does the discussion we had apply to your life, your church, our denomination?
- Where is the Spirit revealing to you areas for growth and transformation?
- How does what we talked about transform your relationship with God and others?
- Write a prayer to ask for God’s support and enlightenment, which applies what you learned, and then go forth and live it.
- Book: Methodism’s Radical Dilemma: The Story of the Central Jurisdiction by James S. Thomas. In 1939, the African-American members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the Methodist Protestant Church were segregated in the Central Conference. This is their story.
- Timeline: “Lessons of the Black Church in History: A listing of key dates,” by Bishop Forrest Stith; A listing of highlights of African-Americans within the Methodist Church.
- Article: “The Racial Crisis in the Methodist Church,” by Peter C. Murray from Christian History, Oct. 1987; A scholarly look at the black church in Methodist history.
- Movie: The Hate U Give, 2018
- Hymns: Lift Every Voice and Sing #519; Marching to Zion #733
- John Wesley Sermon: “On Catholic Spirit”