The merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1968 brought together two traditions but also provided an opportunity for the Methodists to leave behind a heritage of segregation. 1968 file photo courtesy of the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History

By Rev. Mary K. (Sellon) Huycke


“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
Luke 24:30-31a The Message

The United Methodist Church has its 50th birthday next month. On April 23, 1968, Bishop Rueben H. Mueller representing The Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB) and Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke representing The Methodist Church (MC) joined hands at the constituting General Conference in Dallas, Texas.

It was a natural uniting. Their relationship with each other and with Wesleyanism stretched back almost 200 years. Both valued ecumenical connection. At the same time, there were two issues that had to be settled — racial discrimination and women’s ordination. Racial segregation was built into the structure of The Methodist Church. And while the United Brethren ordained women beginning in 1889, the practice was stopped in 1946 when the EUB was formed through their merger with The Evangelical Association. Reaching agreement took time. Their quest for unity began more than a decade earlier.

Rev. Mary Huycke

Since 1968, The United Methodist Church has been working to figure out what unity means. While there has been common agreement about the equal importance of mission and discipleship, the what and how of those efforts are still a source of conflict.

It became clear at the 1972 General Conference that a major point of disagreement would be the denomination’s understanding of the intersection of human sexuality and faith when, after much debate, two statements were added to the Social Principles in our Book of Discipline. One affirmed the “sacred worth” of homosexual individuals and called for protection of their rights.” The other declared homosexual practice “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

The disagreement has only gotten stronger across the years. At last year’s General Conference the Council of Bishops authorized The Commission on a Way Forward to study, confer, and bring to them possible paths for moving forward faithfully. Was there a way for United Methodist’s holding a variety of views on these matters to live together as we continue to seek God’s guidance?

The Commission’s work is almost complete and we should hear this summer what legislation will be brought to a special called session of General Conference in 2019. Delegates will work with the proposed path or paths, discern, and then decide how the denomination shall proceed into the future.

Beginning at the end of March and running through next fall, our episcopal area (AK, ID, OR, WA) will be hosting Table Talks. These are local gatherings where you can get information on the work of the Commission and the upcoming General Conference. Perhaps more importantly, Table Talks will provide an experiential model of how people of faith can enter into difficult conversations.

There are currently three dates set for our Seven Rivers District.

  • Saturday May 12: Tri-Cities, time and location TBD
  • Saturday June 2: Central 7 Rivers, time and location TBD
  • Saturday, Sept 8: Wenatchee First UMC time TBD

In addition, we can bring a Table Talk to your church or group of churches. You can find more information on The Commission on a Way Forward here. You can learn more about these Table Talk gatherings by clicking here.

There will always be difficult and divisive issues. As people of faith it is critical that we develop the relational and spiritual capacity to stay at the table with one another and bring such matters into our faith contexts. May this season, challenging as it may be, deepen our ability to relate to others in ways that bring life-saving, life-giving grace to people, communities and the world.

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Holy One, in whom we live and move and have our being,
draw us closer to you that we may better see others.
Draw us closer to others that we may better see you.

Mary Huycke serves as superintendent for the Seven Rivers District. She is also the first elected clergy person to General Conference from the PNW and serves as chair of the Western Jurisdiction Episcopacy Committee.

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