A Little Bit o’: Methodist History

This is from:  Methodist Episcopal Church in North Carolina 1865 – 1939 by Reverend George William Bumgarner.

The oldest title for an American organization is “Methodist Episcopal”.  In 1784 at the Christmas Conference, 60 various preachers met and set up the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC).  In the early half of the 1800’s, 2 of the Afro-American groups, Wesleyan Methodists and Methodist Protestants split away to form their own. Even though the new groups caused membership to shrink, the MEC stayed alive.

In 1844, a larger portion of the MEC broke off to create the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS) although in the northern part of the nation they were still included in the general MEC. By 1845, a plan was approved so that there was a separate General Conference for the MECS in slave-holding states with the first meeting in 1846. This separation would last 93 yrs and include debate, scandal and the Civil War.


{The “Northern” Methodists were officially part of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Northern Methodist were not happy being called “Northern Methodists” but in the South, it told who was meeting and who was not.}


Methodist Episcopal Church in North Carolina 1865 – 1939. Bumgarner, Reverend George William. The Methodist Episcopal Church in North Carolina 1865 – 1939. ©1990 by Committee on Archives and History of Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. Hunter Publishing Company, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 27113, USA.


Researching Your United Methodist Ancestors

Original Article:  Researching Your United Methodist Ancestors: A Brief Guide

Start with Three Important Questions

LogoTransparentWas my ancestor an ordained minister? Many families have the tradition that “great-grandpa was a preacher.”  Such family history may or may not be accurate.  In United Methodism the term preacher could refer to an ordained minister or it could refer to a lay person who had many of the duties of an ordained minister, but only in a specific locale.  This person was called a local preacher.

If the person was an ordained minister, then records held by the General Commission on Archives and History may be able to help you.   The resources for genealogical research are limited to full-time, fully ordained clergy of the United Methodist Church and its predecessor denominations. (See below for a list of our predecessor groups)  If the person you are researching falls into this category then please feel free to fill out our Genealogical Research Information form.    What we may be able to provide is a copy of the official obituary taken from the person’s Annual Conference Journal.  (See below for definition). There is a non-refundable fee for this service. Many annual conferences can also provide this service. You may wish to contact  them as well.

Was my ancestor a missionary?  If you believe that your ancestor was a missionary, then again, we may be able to help you.    We have obituaries for many of the denomination’s missionaries and we have reports filed by many of the missionaries about their work.  If the person you are researching falls into this category then please feel free to fill out our Genealogical Research Form.

Where are baptismal and membership records?    Local church records, such as baptismal and membership records, are not kept by the General Commission on Archives and History.  Local church records are kept at the local church.  If that church closes and merges with another church, then the records go to the new church.  If the church closes and there is no sucessor church, then the records are usually transferred to the annual conference archives.  You will need to contact the conference archives to learn more about the status of the church and how to go about finding its records.  Feel free to use our on-line conference directory to locate the person you need to contact.   If you have any questions please feel free to contact us.

The Circuit-Riders

[Original Article:  The Circuit – Riders]

The Circuit – Riders in Early American Methodism

Dr. Robert Simpson

John Wesley’s Methodist plan of multiplemeeting places called circuits required an itinerating force of preachers.  A circuit was made up of two or more local churches (sometimes referred to as societies) in early Methodism.  In American Methodism circuits were sometimes referred to as a “charge.”  A pastor would be appointed to the charge by his bishop. During the course of a year he was expected to visit each church on the charge at least once, and possibly start some new ones. At the end of a year the pastors met with the bishop at annual conference, where they would often be appointed to new charges.  A charge containing only one church was called a station.  The traveling preachers responsible for caring for these societies, or local churches and stations, became known as circuit- riders, or sometimes saddlebag preachers.  They traveled light, carrying their belongings and books in their saddlebags.  Ranging far and wide through villages and wilderness, they preached daily or more often at any site available be it a log cabin, the local court house, a meeting house, or an outdoor forest setting. Unlike the pastors of settled denominations, these itinerating preachers were constantly on the move.  Their assignment was often so large it might take them 5 or 6 weeks to cover the territory.

Brother Harwood in New Mexico, when asking how to begin his work, was told: “Get your pony shod. Then start out northward via Fort Union, Cimarron, and Red River until you meet a Methodist coming this way… thence westward and eastward until you meet other Methodist preachers coming this way. All this will be your work….I saw at once that I had a big field.”

Francis Asbury (1745 – 1816), the founding bishop of American Methodism, set the pace. He traveled 270,000 miles and preached 16,000 sermons as he traveled the circuits. Peter Cartwright (1785-1872) described the life of the circuit- rider. He wrote in his Autobiography: “A Methodist preacher, when he felt that God had called him to preach, instead of hunting up a college or Biblical Institute, hunted up a hardy pony, and some traveling apparatus, and with his library always at hand, namely, a Bible, Hymn book, and Discipline, he started, and with a text that never wore out nor grew stale, he cried, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.’ In this way he went through storms of wind, hail, snow, and rain; climbed hills and mountains, traversed valleys, plunged through swamps, swollen streams, lay out all night, wet, weary, and hungry, held his horse by the bridle all night, or tied him to a limb, slept with his saddle blanket for a bed, his saddle-bags for a pillow. Often he slept in dirty cabins, ate roasting ears for bread, drank butter-milk for coffee; took deer or bear meat, or wild turkey, for breakfast, dinner, and supper. This was old-fashioned Methodist preacher fare and fortune.”

Not only did the preacher face physical hardship, but often he endured persecution. Freeborn Garrettson (1752-1827) wrote of his experience: “I was pursued by the wicked, knocked down, and left almost dead on the highway, my face scarred and bleeding and then imprisoned.” No wonder most of these preachers died before their careers had hardly begun. Of those who died up to 1847, nearly half were less than 30 years old. Many were too worn out to travel.

What did they earn? Not much in dollars. Bishop Asbury expressed their reward when he recruited Jesse Lee, “I am going to enlist Brother Lee. What bounty? Grace here and glory hereafter, if he is faithful, will be given.”


Tipple, E. S. Francis Asbury, the Prophet of the Long Road. The Methodist Book Concern 1916.
Cartwright, Peter, Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, Abingdon Press 1956.
Maser, Frederick and Simpson, Robert Drew, If Saddlebags Could Talk, Providence Press 1998.
McEllhenney, John G, Editor United Methodism in America, Abingdon Press 1992.

Women Making History: Debra Wallace-Padgett

Original Article May Be Found Here:  Debra Wallace-Padgett

In 1987, Congress designated the month of March that year as “Women’s History Month.” The annual observance continues to this day. United Methodist News Service invited several women, both lay and clergy, in The United Methodist Church to share their stories. Here is the response from Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, elected to the episcopacy in 2012. She serves the North Alabama Episcopal Area.

3:00 P.M. ET March 14, 2013 | BIRMINGHAM, Ala.

Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett and her husband, Lee, leave Canterbury United Methodist Church after her installation service Oct. 7, 2012, in Birmingham, Ala. Photo courtesy of Dee Moore Photography.
Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett and her husband, Lee, leave Canterbury United Methodist Church after her installation service Oct. 7, 2012, in Birmingham, Ala. 
Photo courtesy of Dee Moore Photography. 

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I was born in a small community in eastern Kentucky called Buchanan. It is a rural area nestled in the foothills of Appalachia. Family, church, neighbors and a small school were at the center of the community.

I have wonderful childhood memories of immediate and extended family gatherings. We would gather around the dinner table, at church, at the ball field and in numerous other places. The point was not what we did or where we were but that we were together, enjoying each other’s company, stories, laughter and encouragement.

I also remember playing sandlot basketball, football and baseball with cousins, siblings and neighbors. We would play the sport of the season for hours after school, on the weekends and during the summer.

I recall with fondness the two-room school where I received the first years of my education. Though it educated children through junior high, when I entered the third grade, my parents sent my siblings and me to a larger elementary school in a town called Louisa, which was about 20 minutes away. The primary reason … was to ensure that we had opportunities to experience extracurricular activities. They spent many hours on the road between Buchanan and Louisa during my elementary, junior high and high school years transporting us to piano lessons, ballgames, dance lessons and band.

From there, I went to Berea (Ky.) College, where I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in physical education; Scarritt College and Graduate School, Nashville, Tenn. (Master of Arts, Christian education); Lexington Theological Seminary (M. Div.); and Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Ky. (D. Min.).

I am married to the Rev. Lee Padgett, a United Methodist deacon, who is in his last month of a 24-year position as executive director of Aldersgate Camp and Retreat Center, Ravenna, Ky. We have two children, Leanndra, 21, and Andrew, 18.

Q: In what local church did you grow up?

A: I grew up in the Prichard Memorial United Methodist Church, which became the Bear Creek United Methodist Church upon being relocated to the geographical center of Buchanan. My father was the pastor, and my mother was very active in this small-membership church where my faith was initially formed. My positive experience in that congregation has caused me to appreciate the life-shaping influence that healthy, small-membership churches can have on the lives of their members.

Q: What are your gifts and how do you share them with the church?

Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett. Photo courtesy of Debra Wallace-Padgett.
Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett
Photo courtesy of 
Debra Wallace-Padgett. 

A: I believe that God’s Holy Spirit gives each Christ-follower what we need to fulfill our calling. In my current role as bishop in North Alabama, primary gifts that I am utilizing are leadership, faith and encouragement.

Q: How do you nurture others, especially girls and women, through the church and in other aspects of your life?

A: Sometimes my vantage point allows me to see gifts in a person that they may not see in themselves. Other times, they recognize their giftedness but lose sight of it in the midst of life’s challenges. As opportunities arise, I try to extend nurture to such persons via notes or conversations about the gifts that I see in them.

I also encourage others to expose themselves to the larger world. Education, travel, conferences and books are some of the ways that life-changing doors are opened for persons. When feasible, I also suggest or offer them opportunities to use their gifts to make a difference.

QWhy is Women’s History Month important to you?

A: Positive examples of women who have made a difference in the world have inspired me over the years. By lifting up such examples, Women’s History Month helps all of us to enlarge our vision of who, by the grace of God, we can be.

This interview was conducted by Barbara Dunlap-Berg, internal content editor for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn. Contact Dunlap-Berg at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Original Article May Be Found Here:  Debra Wallace-Padgett

Short Bio – Nora E. Young and Sallie Crenshaw

[Original Article:  Nora E. Young and Sallie Crenshaw]

Nora E. Young, dates unknown

First African American women, along with Sallie Crenshaw, to receive full-clergy rights.

Nora E. Young, like Sallie Crenshaw, served several years as a lay pastor in the East Tennessee Conference of the MC when women were not permitted to become full conference members. Her first appointment was in 1949, when she became the pastor of three churches in the West Virginia section of the conference. When she and Sallie Crenshaw were received into full connection in the East Tennessee Conference in 1958, they became the first women in the Central Jurisdiction, in the Holston Conference, and in all of the Southeastern Jurisdiction to be received into full connection.

All of Nora’s pastoral appointments were in West Virginia–the last one at St. Luke Methodist Church in War, West Virginia, until 1961. Little more is known of Nora Young as her ministry was discontinued in 1964.

Short Bio – Maud Jensen

[Original Article:  Maud Jensen]

Maud Jensen, 1904-1998

The First Woman to Receive Full Clergy Rights and Conference Membership in the Methodist Church – 1956

In 1956 the General Conference granted full clergy rights to women by voting that they could be admitted into full ministerial membership in Methodist Annual Conferences.  On May 18, within a month of this action, Ms. Maud K. Jensen, a missionary to Korea, became the first woman to be admitted into full conference membership in the Central Pennsylvania Conference. She was admitted on trial, in absentia, as she was in Korea at the time.  She spent forty years in Korea as a full-time and retired missionary.

A native of New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, Jensen was drawn to missionary work while a student at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.   After graduating in 1926, she was sent to Korea by the Methodist Episcopal Church.   She had met her future husband, A. Kristian Jensen, when they were both missionary candidates, and they married in 1928.  By 1946 Jensen earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree from the seminary at Drew University.  Her education at Drew continued in her later life when she completed a Ph.D. at the age of seventy-four.  Drew also conferred upon Jensen an honorary doctorate and an outstanding alumni award.

During the Korean War, her husband Reverend A. Kristian Jensen, was a prisoner of the Communists from 1950-1953. The couple resumed service in Korea in September, 1954, and Mrs. Jensen taught at the Methodist Theological Seminary. Jensen was honored twice by the Korean government for her contribution to social welfare work in that country.
Upon finding herself the first full-fledged female minister in The Methodist Church, Mrs. Jensen cabled:

    “I am deeply grateful for the privilege, but the honor was completely unexpected and due entirely to the early meeting of my Annual Conference. I feel that Georgia Harkness and other active women ministers deserve first recognition after their long struggle and able contributions to the church. I am praying for wisdom and spiritual development.”

Short Bio – Francis Asbury

[Original Article:  Francis Asbury]

Francis Asbury, 1745-1816

The founding Bishop of the Methodist Church in America was born in England.  Sent by John Wesley as a missionary to America in 1771, he promoted the circuit rider system which proved so eminently suited to frontier conditions.  His powerful preaching, his skill in winning converts, and his mastery of organization had, by the end of the Revolution, established him as the undisputed leader of American Methodism.

Wesley and Asbury agreed that the Methodists in America should be organized into an independent Church.  Thus in 1784 John Wesley ordained two lay preachers as pastors and Thomas Coke as Bishop and sent them to America.  The American preachers gathered at Christmas time 1784 in Baltimore to implement the plan.  A dozen preachers were ordained, Coke was accepted as Bishop, and Asbury was elected and consecrated to the same office.

PDF of formatted bulletin insert