Central Alabama Conference Methodist Church
The Central Alabama Conference of the Methodist Church was a annual conference (i.e., regional adminstrative unit) for African Americans within the Methodist Church. It was founded in 1876 as the Central Alabama Conference of Methodist Episcopal Church when African American congregations in the Alabama Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) were segregated into it. (The MEC was the national or "northern" Methodist denomination.) The Central Alabama Conference encompassed the entire state of Alabama as well as the panhandle of Florida west of the Apalachicola River.
In 1939 when the MEC united with two other Methodist denominations to form the Methodist Church, the conference continued under the name of the new denomination and incorporated congregations that were part of the Alabama Colored Mission of the Methodist Protestant Church. The third denomination involved in the merger, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, had no African American congregations. After the Civil War, African Americans who belonged to it either left for other denominations or were dismissed to form the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in 1870.
"Central" referred not to a region of the state, but was a term Methodist used for African-American conferences that were separated from the main White-majority conference. From 1939 in the Methodist Church these central conferences were part of the Central Jurisdiction, a national structure for electing bishops that was separate from regional jurisdictions that other churches belonged to.
This race-based segregated structure was eliminated when the United Methodist Church was formed in 1968. At that time there were 15,000 persons who belonged to the conference's churches. The twelve Birmingham-area congregations that had been part of the Central Alabama Conference became part of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Note: City directories in the early 20th century regularly mislabel Black M.E. churches as "A.M.E." suggesting they were part of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a different denomination.
In 1879, the conference had one preaching station in Birmingham, St Paul Methodist Episcopal Church. By 1887, another preaching station in Irondale had been added. It is possible that the preacher at each station led services in more than one location.
By 1926 Birmingham-area congregations included:
- Bradford Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church
- Brownsville Methodist Episcopal Church
- East Thomas Methodist Episcopal Church
- Ensley Methodist Episcopal Church
- Enon Methodist Episcopal Church
- Leeds Methodist Episcopal Church
- Mason City Methodist Episcopal Church
- Mt Moriah Methodist Episcopal Church, Woodlawn
- Mt Pleasant Methodist Episcopal Church, Hooper City
- New Hope Methodist Episcopal Church
- Sayreton Methodist Episcopal Church
- St Paul Methodist Episcopal Church
- Scott Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church
- Wright's Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church, North Birmingham
- General Minutes of the Annual Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1887) New York: Phillips & Hunt.
- Minutes of the Annual Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church. (1926)
- Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) Nashville, TN: United Methodist Publishing House.
- Godhold, Albert and John H. Ness Jr. (2021) Table of United Methodist Annual Conferences, 1796-2021 Madison:NJ General Conference on Archives and History The United Methodist Church