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Subject: [Sc-Ir] U.S. Presbyterians and Methodists
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 2003 18:05:48 EDT


While my friend Edward has the history in Britain well in hand, the more
recent history of Methodists and Presbyterians in the U.S. is a bit less mutually
exclusive. For a variety of reasons -- less stringent ordination standards,
lower pay for clergy, clergy assignments to several small parishes at once,
etc. -- Methodist churches were often able to survive in rural areas while the
struggling little Presbyterian congregations folded. Historically Methodist
churches were usually founded by circuit riding preachers, while the
Presbyterians waited until enough interested folks moved into an area to organize a
church. Many displaced Presbyterians in these rural communities, not being
well-versed in theological differences, often found nearby Methodist congregations the
most stylistically similar in worship and so on.

It partly depends as well on old agreements that split up developing areas
for missionary work. In northern New Mexico, for instance, the Presbyterians
worked east of the Rio Grande while the Methodists worked west of the Rio
Grande. There was and is a sort of pragmatic frontier ecumenism involved.

The other American frontier denomination that drew in lots of Scots-Irish was
the Disciples of Christ, and their more conservative counterparts in the
Church of Christ. (This latter group should not be confused with the United
Church of Christ, which has a very different history!) These groups are from the
"Campbellite" tradition as it developed in the early 19th century camp
meetings, but with roots in Scottish Presbyterianism.

Ken Cuthbertson
Albuquerque, NM


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