Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Two Centuries of Methodism in Arkansas 1800-2000

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Two Centuries of Methodism in Arkansas 1800-2000

Article excerpt

Two Centuries of Methodism in Arkansas 1800-2000. By Nancy Britton. (Little Rock: August House Publishers, 2000. Pp. 423. Acknowledgments, foreword, introduction, illustrations, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $29.95.)

The Methodists have a lengthy presence on the American scene. Theirs was the first religious body to declare allegiance to the Republic ofter the Revolutionary War, and they quickly pledged their loyalty to President George Washington after his election. Some twenty years after formally organizing as an American church in 1784, members of the denomination began efforts to reach the inhabitants of Arkansas. To chronicle this two-hundred-year history of Methodism in Arkansas could be a tedious task and make for tedious reading. But Nancy Britton, author of two other books on Methodism, has covered this span not only in an informative way-and in as comprehensive a way as possible for a one-volume work-she also has made it readable.

From an account of the initial efforts by two Methodist preachers (William Patterson and Lorenzo Dow), the narrative proceeds to the first known Methodist congregation, established by a young preacher, Eli Lindsey, around 1815-1816 on Flat Creek in western Lawrence County. From this small beginning, the stream of narrative slowly widens to encompass the 1820 creation of the Arkansas circuit, the erection of church buildings, and the various divisions that arose, beginning around 1830. The latter occurred when dissenters in the Methodist Episcopal Church broke away to form the Methodist Protestant Church. Keeping this and subsequent divisions straight requires close attention, but Britton helps by supplying sidebars and charts throughout the book. Illustrations and photos accompanying the text also are helpful.

As the abolition movement in the North gained momentum in the country's religious bodies, it caused serious disruptions within Methodism and brought about a split among Methodist Episcopal delegates to the Louisville Convention in 1845. (Along the same lines, the Methodist Protestants adopted two administrations for their church in 1858.) The lines of separation between North and South during the Civil War fell generally along the boundaries established at the Methodist Episcopal's Louisville Convention. After the war, southern Methodists perceived a bias against them on the part of the Union army, when Federal troops seized and controlled their churches and property and used such facilities for hospitals, barracks, commissaries, and stables. …

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