What may be the nation’s biggest Protestant denomination was born April 23 in the heart of Texas—a land fabled for bigness in everything. It was the union of the 10.3-million-member Methodist Church and the 750,000-member Evangelical United Brethren Church into the United Methodist Church.
(There is some question whether the Southern Baptist Convention is larger, because of wide variance in the way memberships are reported.)
Dr. Albert C. Outler, noted Methodist theologian, forecast that the merger, dramatically portrayed in color on national TV, is only the beginning of what eventually may become one all-encompassing Christian Church. “No part of our venture in unity is really finished as yet,” the 1,200 official delegates and 8,000 Dallas onlookers were told.
Both the Methodists and EUBs were among the ten denominations in the Consultation on Church Union, aimed at bringing a single Protestant church with 25.5 million members. Their merger was the first within the group. Some skeptical observers predicted it will also be the last within COCU.
Nevertheless, the leaders of the new United Methodist Church indicated they will push union with all the others, particularly the three Negro Methodist denominations in COCU. For some southern laymen in the Methodist Church, however, even full integration of Negro conferences from the old Methodist Church was a big enough task for the foreseeable future.
The creation of the new denomination was not without some birth pangs. One incident occurred the night before the union ritual when fifty-six churchmen—most of them Negroes—walked out of a joint communion service for the uniting denominations to express concern for the racial question in the new church.
“We do not believe that within the ...1
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