The Birth and History of the United Methodist Church
On April 23, 1968, The United Methodist Church was created when Bishop Reuben H. Mueller, representing The Evangelical United Brethren Church, and Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke of The Methodist Church joined hands at the constituting General Conference in Dallas, Texas. With the words, "Lord of the Church, we are united in Thee, in Thy Church and now in The United Methodist Church," the new denomination was given birth by two churches that had distinguished histories and influential ministries in various parts of the world.
Theological traditions steeped in the Protestant Reformation and Wesleyanism, similar ecclesiastical structures, and relationships that dated back almost two hundred years facilitated the union.
In the Evangelical United Brethren heritage, for example, Philip William Otterbein, the principal founder of the United Brethren in Christ, assisted in the ordination of Francis Asbury to the superintendency of American Methodist work. Jacob Albright, through whose religious experience and leadership the Evangelical Association was begun, was nurtured in a Methodist class meeting following his conversion.
The United Methodist Church shares a common history and heritage with other Methodist and Wesleyan bodies. The lives and ministries of John Wesley (1703–1791) and of his brother, Charles (1707–1788), mark the origin of their common roots.
The Churches Grow, 1817–1843
The Second Great Awakening was the dominant religious development among Protestants in America in the first half of the nineteenth century. Through revivals and camp meetings sinners were brought to an experience of conversion. Circuit riding preachers and lay pastors knit them into a connection.
The Slavery Question and Civil War, 1844–1865
John Wesley was an ardent opponent of slavery. Many of the leaders of early American Methodism shared his hatred for this form of human bondage. The United Brethren in Christ took a strong stand against slavery, as church members could not sell a slave, and by 1837 ruled that slave owners could not continue as members. As the nineteenth century progressed, it became apparent that tensions were deepening in Methodism over the slavery question.
Reconstruction, Prosperity, and New Issues, 1866–1913
The Civil War dealt an especially harsh blow to The Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Its membership fell to two-thirds its
pre-war strength. Many of its churches lay in ruins or were seriously damaged.
World War and More Change, 1914–1939
In the years immediately prior
to World War I, there was much sympathy in the churches for negotiation and arbitration as visible alternatives to international armed conflict. Many church members and clergy openly professed pacifism.
Movement Toward Union, 1940–1967
Although Methodists, Evangelicals, and United Brethren each had published strong statements condemning war and advocating peaceful reconciliation among the nations, the strength of their positions was largely lost with American involvement in the hostilities of World War II.
Developments Since 1968
When the United Methodist Church was created in 1968, it had approximately 11 million members, making it one of the largest Protestant churches in the world.
A Brief History of Maple United Methodist
Maple United Methodist Church is a historic church on the north side of Battle Creek. It began in 1888 as a mission of First Methodist Church to meet the needs of the expanding near northeast side of Battle Creek.
Maple United Methodist Church was originally a Methodist Mission Sunday School of the First Methodist Church of Battle Creek. On October 28th of that year 105 people gathered to worship, sing hymns and praise the Lord at a house at 193 Cherry Street in Battle Creek.
The church met at several temporary locations, including a tent, until its first building was completed and dedicated as the “Maple Methodist Episcopal Chapel” on August 31, 1890. By the end of 1890, Maple’s membership included 74 names.
During its first 25 years, Maple grew in membership and mission. This era included a campaign against the “wet forces” of the organized liquor traffic, support for men stationed at Camp Custer during World War I. The church constructed a parsonage and erected a belfry.
From 1915 to its 50th anniversary celebration in 1939 Maple Methodist Episcopal Chapel expanded its work with young people. Boy Scout Troop #4 made its home at Maple. In the 1920’s several young women went to China as missionaries, teachers and evangelists. A young teens group was organized and contributed to the church by planting shrubbery and purchasing the large painting of Christ. To accommodate its increasing membership the congregation came together to build a new addition and gymnasium and purchase a fine organ.
When the main bodies of Methodism merged (the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Protestant Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South) the church changed its name to Maple Methodist Church.
The years from 1940-1963 were marked by growth, building and renovations. The church purchased a new parsonage and the old one was remodeled to accommodate the office, pastor’s study, nursery and Sunday School rooms. The church belfry was proclaimed a hazard and torn down amidst much controversy. The space above the gymnasium became a children’s chapel and classrooms. The Women’s Society of Christian Service modernized the kitchen. Maple’s 500 members and 200 constituency members celebrated 75 years as a worshipping community in 1963 in a newly decorated Sanctuary.
Maple’s emphasis on youth, service and worship continued into the next quarter of a century. Active Junior and Senior High school youth groups, participation in city-wide sports programs, vacation church school programs and Methodist Camp sessions were all important aspects of the community’s life. A children’s choir came into being during this time. In 1973 the church broke ground for a new Education Unit and March 1974 saw the consecration of the new unit. In 1978 the church demonstrated its commitment to youth as it hired its first Director of Youth and Christian Education.
Locally the church provided food and fruit baskets to shut-ins and families in need during the holiday seasons. Help for those abroad came in the form of support for Christ Hospital in Sarawak, a country between India and Africa. During this time the beautiful stained glass windows were re-leaded, repaired and covered with protective plexiglass.
Maple sold the old parsonage and bought a new one at 511 Garrison. The community celebrated its 90th anniversary in 1978 with 400 members and 75 constituent members. During this time period the church changed its name again, incorporating “united” into its name as the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Church merged to become the United Methodist Church.
In 1973, a new educational unit was completed. The beautiful stained glass windows have been preserved throughout all renovations and remodeling of the church.
We invite you to visit or worship with us. For a map to our location, please click here now or call the church office at (269) 964-1252. Welcome!
Who Was John Wesley, the Founder of the Methodist Movement?
John Wesley (1703 – 1791) was an Anglican cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield. Methodism in both forms was a highly successful evangelical movement in the United Kingdom, which encouraged people to experience Jesus Christ personally.
Wesley's writing and preaching provided the seeds for both the modern Methodist movement and the Holiness movement, which encompass numerous denominations across the world. In addition, he put a strong evangelical emphasis on the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith.
Wesley helped to organize and form societies of Christians throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland as small groups that developed intensive, personal accountability, discipleship and religious instruction among members. His great contribution was to appoint itinerant, un-ordained preachers who traveled widely to evangelize and care for people in the societies. Young men who acted as their assistants were called "exhorters" who functioned in a similar fashion to the twelve apostles after the ascension of Jesus.
Under Wesley's direction, Methodists became leaders in many social issues of the day, including the prison reform and abolitionism movements.He was also among the first to preach for slaves rights, attracting significant opposition. Wesley's contribution as a theologian was to propose a system of opposing theological stances.
His greatest theological achievement was his promotion of what he termed "Christian Perfection," or holiness of heart and life. Wesley held that, in this life, Christians could come to a state in which the love of God, or perfect love, reigned supreme in their hearts. His evangelical theology, especially his understanding of Christian perfection, was firmly grounded in his sacramental theology. He continually insisted on the general use of the means of grace (prayer, scripture, meditation, Holy Communion, etc.) as the means by which God sanctifies and transforms the believer.
Throughout his life, Wesley remained within the Church of England and insisted that his movement was well within the bounds of the Anglican tradition. His maverick use of church policy put him at odds with many within the Church of England, though toward the end of his life he was widely respected and referred to as “the best loved man in England.” (Source: Wikipedia 2010 and op. cit.)