Congregational Methodist Church, The
Congregational Methodist Church, The was organized in Monroe County, Georgia, May 8, 1852, by the union of three local preachers and eight laymen, all members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Their chief dissatisfaction was with the itinerant ministry and the episcopal polity. They were soon joined by others from the same region, and within a year about a dozen societies were formed in that state. A convention was held at Mount Zion, early in 1855, at which there were present delegates from Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, and a complete organization was effected by the ratification of a book of discipline, which had been early put forth by the leaders of the enterprise, and by the adoption of a formal constitution, as follows:
(1) Church Conferences. — Composed of all the local church members, which by a majority vote, elect church officers; namely: an elder or pastor, class-leader, deacon or steward, and clerk. This conference is held monthly; the elder or pastor presides, or, in his absence, a chairman pro
term is elected. Reception or dismissal of members is by majority vote of the members present.
(2) District Conferences. — Meet semi-annually, composed if delegates from the local churches, in the ratio of one delegate for every twenty members.
(3) State Conferences. — Composed of delegates from the district conferences, meet annually, electing their own officers. They review the acts of the district conferences, change or form new districts, determine all questions of doctrine or discipline, and supply destitute sections of states beyond the districts.
(4) General Conference. — Meeting quadrennially, and composed of delegates elected the state conferences. This makes general rules and regulations for the whole Church, subject to certain restrictions. The system of government is not purely Congregational. The itinerancy is not observed, and ministers and laymen have equal rights in all the conferences. In doctrine this body does not differ from other Methodists.
In 1872, an official organ, called The Congregational Methodist, was established at Opelika, Alabama, which has lately been edited by L.T. Jones. In 1888 many of the churches and ministers joined other congregational bodies. In 1893 there were 9 conferences, 214 societies, and 8765 members, chiefly in Alabama. There are also two conferences of colored members, presided over by the presidents of the white conferences, with 9 societies and 319 members. Besides these is a branch called "The New Congregational Methodists," organized in Ware County, Georgia, in 1881, and now having 24 societies and 1059 members, chiefly in Georgia.
Other Congregational Methodists, generally called Independents, exist in Maryland, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia, without any Conference connection, having 15 societies and 2569 members in 1893.
Sporadic secessions from Methodist bodies at various times have elsewhere assumed congregational forms, but have soon disbanded or joined other bodies.