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Glossary: Methodist Episcopal Church, The

Organized in 1784 at the Christmas Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. Following the independence of the United States, John Wesley believed that American Methodists should establish their own church. To facilitate this, Wesley ordained two of his lay preachers and "set apart" Thomas Coke, who was an ordained minister in the Church of England, as a general superintendent and sent the three to assist in the establishment of the new church. He also sent instructions for the new church. The new church under the leadership of Francis Asbury grew rapidly. The Methodist Episcopal Church sent circuit riders throughout the nation and established Annual Conferences as the church matured. In 1808 the first delegated General Conference was held. In 1830, there was a major division over this issues of the authority of the bishops, the election of the presiding elders (district superintendents), and lay representation in the Annual Conferences, and The Methodist Protestant Church was formed. In 1844 the debate over slavery and the role of bishops led to a break on a geographic basis and The Methodist Episcopal Church, South was formed. These divisions remained until The Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South and The Methodist Protestant Church united in 1939 to form The Methodist Church.

Source: A Dictionary for United Methodists, Alan K. Waltz, Copyright 1991, Abingdon Press. Used by Permission.