The EPA Annual Conference approved a resolution, May 15, 2014, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the former, all-black Delaware Annual Conference. That pioneering conference emerged in 1864 from efforts to afford oppressed and often-ostracized African American members of the Methodist Episcopal Church the right to dignity, full participation and self-determination.
The Delaware Conference, which stretched across five states, from Virginia up to New York, voted to dissolve a century later, in 1964, as its members prepared to integrate geographically-based conferences. The predominantly white Philadelphia Conference welcomed black members in 1965. It became part of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference in 1970, after the United Methodist Church was formed from merger in 1968.
The Rev. David W. Brown, a Deacon serving at Arch Street UMC in Philadelphia, presented the resolution on behalf of a joint committee of EPA and Peninsula-Delaware conference members. It calls for a yearlong commemoration with cross-racial worship, fellowship, dialogues and artistic endeavors to celebrate and teach members about not only the Delaware Conference but also the meanings of its integration into the church’s broader structures.
A 7½ -minute video about the Delaware Conference’s birth was shown as part of the presentation. But its ongoing purpose is to support an appeal for donations to help fund production of a longer video, one that will illustrate in more depth the inspiring story of the Delaware Annual Conference and its “Journey toward Wholeness.”
When asked how much needed to be raised to produce the video, Brown said from $10,000 to $20,000. Proceeds from modest sales of his 2011 book about the Delaware Conference, Freedom Drawn from Within, are also being used to support the project.
The video and more information about this vital part of the Methodist story can be seen on a new Web site, www.delawareannualconference.org, where visitors can learn about and contribute to this ambitious but timely project. Visit the site; and contact Brown at info@DelawareAnnualConference.org if you have questions or want to help.
–John W. Coleman, EPA Conference Communications Director
Photo courtesy of the General Commission on Archives and History