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The United Methodist Church: More than a name

The United Methodist Church was born on April 23,1968. The Rev. Alfred T. Day of the United Methodist General Commission on Archives and History explains more about how the denomination got its name and why it matters to use it correctly. "If you leave the name 'United' off you're leaving off both a significant piece and powerful part of the naming of who we are."

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Twelve million people around the world call themselves United Methodist.

Church members know that when they see a cross and flame, it represents a connection with fellow United Methodists across the miles--and the years.

But not everyone realizes how much it matters to spell out and say: United Methodist.

The Rev. Alfred T. Day, General Commission on Archives and History: "How do you like it when somebody doesn't call you by your name? I think it's that simple."

The Rev. Alfred Day, who heads the church's archives and history agency, says the word "united" is key to our identity for a number of reasons.

The moniker represents a merger.  At General Conference in April 1968, the mostly German Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church chose to come together. Not using the denomination's full name risks dismissing some members' heritage.

The Rev. Alfred Day: "If your lineage to become a United Methodist today has been through the Methodist Episcopal strain, you're in the majority because the United Brethren and the Evangelical Associations by numbers are much smaller groups. So it's easy for you in the majority to think of yourself as Methodist and claim that heritage. But if you're from the minority, the only way that you get to claim your name is the word 'United' and somebody drops that name off, that kind of forgets your history."

Another reason for adding united to the name spoke to the fuller inclusion of black churches. Even though the Methodist Episcopal Church had re-united in 1939 after being divided on the issue of slavery, African Americans were still segregated into a separate Central Jurisdiction. In 1968, that ended. 

The Rev. Alfred T. Day: "The united name also represents a coming together of black Methodists and white Methodists in the same conference, with the same preachers, with the same bishops, as opposed to segregated conferences as well. So if you leave the name 'United' off you're leaving off both a significant piece and powerful part of the naming of who we are."

Learn more about the history of The United Methodist Church and explore resources available from the General Commission on Archives and History

This video was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, TN in partnership with the General Commission on Archives and History. Media contact is Fran Walsh, 615-742-5458.

This video was first posted on April 21, 2017.

United Methodist Communications is an agency of The United Methodist Church

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