In 1934 white Methodists in the southern states who opposed the unification of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South and the Methodist Episcopal Church, which had split over slavery in 1844 along with the Methodist Protestant Church, formed the Laymen’s Organization for the Preservation of the Southern Methodist Church. They feared northern domination as well as racial integration.
When the reunited denomination was established in May 1939, some four hundred opponents to union met in Columbia on June 7, 1940, to form the South Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. They created a denomination without bishops and added to the Methodist Articles of Religion statements on creationism, premillennialism, Satan, and racial segregation. Based on its control of Pine Grove Church in Turbeville, the conference entered suit against the Methodist Church for ownership of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South’s church property. On March 12, 1945, federal judge George Bell Timmerman issued a ruling declaring that the bishops of the Methodist Church were the legal representatives of the new denomination and that it both controlled church property and had legal title to the former name of the denomination.
Consequently, the withdrawing group adopted as its name the Southern Methodist Church and established in Orangeburg both its national headquarters and Southern Methodist College. In 1999 the denomination listed 7,686 members in 117 churches stretching from Virginia to Texas.