This book is the story of the Central Jurisdiction of the Methodist Church, the jurisdiction that was created for African American members of the three bodies uniting in 1939. James S. Thomas sketches the history of American Methodism from its earliest beginnings through the years of tumult around the issue of slavery and on into the twentieth century. But the bulk of the book is that story that could best be told only by an insider, in this case, by the one who served as chairperson of the Central Jurisdiction Study and Research Committee, popularly known as the Committee of Five, which formulated the plan for the merger of the Central Jurisdiction's annual conferences into the regional jurisdictions.
Officially, the story of the Central Jurisdiction began in 1939. But the attitudes and social practices that prompted its creation go much further back into history. As those attitudes evolved--by a combination of legislated change within the wider society and the opening of the minds of many people--the ever-present dilemma of the Central Jurisdiction was resolved. Its demise, says Bishop Thomas, enables The United Methodist Church more faithfully to seek the goal of one Shepherd, one fold.
For those desiring to read a concise but accurate historical outline of African Americans in The United Methodist Church, this is the book. For those desiring tidbits of data not included in typical history books, commingled with insertions of American history, this book will serves as a rich resource.
- From the Foreword by Bishop Forrest C. Stith