The Central Jurisdiction is the way the Methodist Church, from 1939 – 1968, practiced segregation. All Methodist African American conferences and local churches were placed in this Jurisdiction. This ensured the separation of whites and blacks at all levels, except at the very highest. But since the ending of that jurisdiction in 1968 and the integration of the conferences by 1972 many have asked: “What happened to its records?” What we need to ask is “What is the real question?” The Cen-tral Jurisdiction’s purpose, just like all the other jurisdictions, was to elect bishops. The jurisdictional conference met every four years, so there are actual records of that organization’s functions. But people are seldom asking about the institution. They are often wondering about the annual conferences which belonged to that jurisdiction, about the boards, or about other organizations which were related to the jurisdiction. Sometimes they are wondering what happened to a church pastor from their own childhood. So, recognizing that, here are some answers:
Information on pastors that served in churches which were part of the Central Jurisdiction can be found in the conference journals. General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH), located in Madison, NJ, has a significant collection of conference journals going back to the 1770s.
Information on local churches can often be found in several places. If you are looking for a list of pastors of your local church contact your local conference archives, or GCAH. GCAH can help you determine which current annual conference archives to contact. The conference archives may have the records, or the records may be with a new church because one or more older churches merged.
If looking for the records and reports of the Central Jurisdiction, they are housed at GCAH along with the other jurisdictions within the U.S. and many of the central conferences from overseas.
Along with GCAH, the African American Methodist Heritage Center is working on collecting the history of individuals and local communities nationally and regionally. Within various annual conferences there are those working to preserve this portion of our past. Other resources in-clude back issues of Methodist History and the archival database accessible via GCAH’s website.
– This information is provided by GCAH, at gcah.org. Questions may be directed to Dale Patterson at www.gcah.org or Carol Travis at www.aamhc.org.