The denomination is Methodist in theology, doctrine, and practice, with love feasts and class meetings. One hundred years after its establishment, the church had eighteen congregations, twenty-six clergy, and 3,800 members.
The Reformed Methodist Union Episcopal Church was organized in Charleston in 1885 after seceding from the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). As the two major black Methodist bodies, the AME and AME Zion churches, established themselves in the South during the post–Civil War era, they found that some adherents became dissatisfied with the governance or rules of their bodies. The beginning of the Reformed Methodists has been attributed to two possible causes. According to one view, the separation occurred because of differences over the selection of representatives to an annual conference. The other view holds that the Reverend William E. Johnson and some erstwhile congregants of the famed Morris Brown AME Church sought ownership of the church’s property. The court battle between the Johnson contingent and the AME Church resulted in a ruling that each party could use the facilities provided that it kept membership in the denomination. Nonetheless, sometime later the Johnson faction withdrew and organized the Reformed Methodist Church. Possibly, each of these accounts is a constituent element of the whole story. It is clear, however, that the Reformed party initially sought a more congregationally based, less episcopal-style church governance.
The denomination is Methodist in theology, doctrine, and practice, with love feasts and class meetings. One hundred years after its establishment, the church had eighteen congregations, twenty-six clergy, and 3,800 members. Headquartered in Charleston, the church publishes The Doctrines and Discipline.
Murphy, Larry G., J. Gordon Melton, and Gary L. Ward, eds. Encyclopedia of African American Religions. New York and London: Garland, 1993.