The debate over slavery at the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1844 resulted in the division of the denomination into northern and southern branches.

The debate over slavery at the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1844 resulted in the division of the denomination into northern and southern branches. The critical issue was Georgia bishop James O. Andrew’s ownership of slaves, inherited from his wife. By Georgia law he could not free the slaves, and Bishop Andrew offered to retire. The southern delegates refused to support his request, and a Plan of Separation was adopted, allowing the southern annual conference to withdraw and create the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In 1845 a convention of delegates from conferences in the slaveholding states met in Louisville, Kentucky, and formally created the successor denomination. The following year the first General Conference in Petersburg, Virginia, elected William Capers to the episcopacy, the first South Carolina native to become a Methodist bishop.

The bitterness of division and civil war did not permit serious discussion of unification until the early twentieth century. In 1924 the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, approved a plan of union, but it was defeated by the annual conferences (including South Carolina). In another effort in 1938 South Carolinians supported unification, despite fears of northern domination and racial equality. The following year the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Methodist Protestant Church (which had split over lay representation in 1830) reunited as the Methodist Church.

Betts, Albert D. History of South Carolina Methodism. Columbia, S.C.: Advocate Press, 1952.

Huff, A. V., Jr. “The Evangelical Traditions II: Methodists.” In Religion in South Carolina, edited by Charles H. Lippy. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Author A. V. Huff, Jr.
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/methodist-episcopal-church/
  • Access Date March 31, 2020
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date June 8, 2016
  • Date of Last Update October 20, 2016