The Birth of a United Church
On April 23, 1968, The United Methodist Church was created when Bishop Reuben H. Mueller, representing The Evangelical United Brethren Church, and Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke of The Methodist Church joined hands at the constituting General Conference in Dallas, Texas. With the words, “Lord of the Church, we are united in Thee, in Thy Church and now in The United Methodist Church,” the new denomination was given birth by two churches that had distinguished histories and influential ministries in various parts of the world.
The United Methodist Church Worldwide
In 1968, The Evangelical United Brethren and The Methodist Church united. Full clergy status for women was included in the plan of union. Since then, an increasing number of women have been admitted to the ordained ministry, appointed to the district superintendency, elected to positions of denominational leadership, and consecrated as bishops. In 1980, Marjorie Matthews was the first woman elected to the Church’s episcopacy.
When The United Methodist Church was created in 1968, it had approximately 11 million members, making it one of the largest Protestant churches in the world. Since then the church has become increasingly aware of itself as a world church with membership and conferences in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States. While worldwide membership in The United Methodist Church has grown since 1968, membership in Europe and the United States has declined, offset by significant growth in Africa and Asia. In Africa, The United Methodist Church has expanded episcopal areas to include East Africa, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, East Congo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa.
The United Methodist Church continues to represent the confluence of three streams of tradition: Methodism, the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, and The Evangelical Association. With other churches that are also members of the body of Christ, it humbly and gratefully offers up its praise to God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for creating and sustaining grace. It seeks further grace as it ministers to the world.