More than 300 participants gathered at the remembrance of “Central Jurisdiction,” on Aug. 27-29. Central Jurisdiction was created in 1939 for the purpose of centralizing the leadership in a segregated and divided church. The issue was that blacks were not allowed to be in the same church as whites when the Jim Crow laws were instituted.
When this separation happened after the Civil War, most of the African Americans left in protest, while some stayed.
William McClain, a professor at Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington said, "The Central Jurisdiction was a compromise to merge the southern Methodist Church and the northern Methodist Church together in 1939” when blacks were not welcomed.
“The truth was that black people were abused, insulted and disappointed that the church was not willing to be one church," said McClain.
This forced segregation ended in 1968, even though by 1954 the Supreme Court had already stated that ‘separate cannot be equal’.
The theme of the reunion was "Reviewing Yesterday, Discerning Paths to Tomorrow." The participants shared stories of race relations and compared Methodist with U.S. treatment of race.
Evelyn Gibson Lowery, a United Methodist who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Women's Organizational Movement for Equality Now, conceived and organized the reunion, UMNS reports. She hopes that the event will one of many and will help people to learn about the treatment of blacks in the church’s history.