Some effects of the Central Jurisdiction upon the movement to make the Methodist Church an inclusive church
Perez, Joseph A.
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The Central Jurisdiction is a structure within The Methodist Church organization which almost completely segregates the Negro Methodist from his white fellow-Methodist at the jurisdictional, annual conference, and local church levels of organization. During the past few years the church has begun to move toward the abolition of this racial jurisdiction. During this period, however, the leadership of the Central Jurisdiction has refused to implement various procedures available to transfer conferences and churches into geographic jurisdictions according to Amendment IX of the Constitution of The Methodist Church. In this situation the question has been raised as to the role that the Central Jurisdiction is playing and has played in the developnent of an inclusive Methodist Church. Particularly, the question has been asked whether the Central Jurisdiction and its leadership has become a conservative institution concerned with its own interests over and above the elimination of the symbol of segregation in The Methodist Church. The aim of the present stuey has been to study these questions. The procedure has been to study the history of the Negro in Methodism and of the development of the Central Jurisdiction. In order to discover the effects of the Central Jurisdiction as an institution upon communication between white and Negro ministers, and to discover any differences in attitudes concerning the Central Jurisdiction between leaders and non-leaders, a questionnaire was sent to a random sample of the ministerial menbers of the Central Jurisdiction. Of 193 items in the sample 191 were returned. other instruments were also sent to the presidents of the Woman's Society of Christian Service and the Lay Leaders of the seventeen Negro annual conferences in order to determine the extent of conmunicat ion among Methodist laymen. A stuey was then made of the Central Jurisdictional Conference actions directed toward the elimination of the Central Jurisdiction, using criteria for effective minority action as a critical tool. These criteria were: (1) an insistent, virtually unanimous protest to the majority group; (2) a legislative program supported by the Negro; (3) the development of interracial contacts and activities. The conclusions of the study indicate that there is very little communication between clergy and laymen of different races at the conference, district or local level. The national leadership of the Woman's Society of Christian Service has encouraged inter-racial contacts but the results, although encouraging, are only beginning to appear. No statistical difference appeared between the leaders and non-leaders of the Central Jurisdiction in their attitudes concerning the Central Jurisdiction which would indicate the leaderships 1 actions were dictated by self-interest. In fact, on same issues the leaders took positions more favorable to an inclusive church than the rank and file. The actions of the Central Jurisdiction were found to be consistent with the purpose or creating an inclusive church, defining this in terms much broader than the mere abolition of the Central Jurisdiction. It was found that this concern with the more fundamental question of how to develop an inclusive fellowship in which the Negro will be accepted as an equal in all sections of the church was the reason for the reluctance ef the leadership te utilize Alaendment IX. With the pressure of the secular world building up around the church fer the elimination of segregation the Central Jurisdiction found it strategic to emphasize the importance of formulating an over-all plan for the development of an inclusive church before the Central Jurisdiction was abolished. The effect of the Central Jurisdiction, therefore, as an institutional structure was found to retard the develepment of an inclusive church, while as a policy making body it has been a force working for the end of racism in The Methodist Church.
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