Agency history record.


The Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) was organized at the church's General Conference of 1830.  The members met for the first time in Macon, Georgia, in 1831.  Within a few years the church began to struggle with the issue of slavery.  Unable to reach an agreement, the church divided in 1844 and the slave holding states formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS).

In 1866 the Georgia Conference of the MECS was divided into the North and South Georgia Conferences.  After much debate the conference voted for a dividing line that ran generally east and west and slightly north of Macon.  The division put nearly two thirds of the state in the South Georgia Conference and approximately two thirds of the members in the North Georgia Conference.  At the time of its creation, the North Georgia Conference consisted of a total of roughly 540 churches with a combined lay membership of 38,000 and 390 clergy. It included the districts of Augusta, Athens, Atlanta, Elberton, Dahlonega, Griffin, La Grange, Milledgeville, and Rome.

The North Georgia Conference grew rapidly.  In 1939 the MECS united with the MEC and the Methodist Protestant Church to form the Methodist Church.  At this time the Conference consisted of ten districts, 289 charges, 377 clergy, 156,000 members, and churches and parsonages valued at $8,232,995.  The Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1968 to become the United Methodist Church.  In 1996 the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church consisted of twelve districts with a total lay membership of 286,515 and 877 clergy.

The experience of African Americans within the Methodist Church was one of segregation.  They were organized into conferences separate from those of white members.  In 1864 the General Conference of the MEC authorized the creation of Mission Conferences to serve people of color.  Five mission conferences were formed between 1866 and 1868, including the Georgia Mission Conference in 1867.  By 1868 these conferences had been granted the same status as the regional annual conferences.  The Savannah Conference was formed in 1876, with the Atlanta Conference added in 1896.  By 1895 these conferences had become almost exclusively African American in membership, numbering nineteen by 1925. At the time of unification in 1939, all the segregated conferences within the Methodist Church were organized into the Central Jurisdictional Conference, a racial, rather than geographical conference.  This conference existed simultaneously with the five regional jurisdictional conferences.  The Savannah and Atlanta Conferences united in 1952 to create the Georgia Conference.  In 1964 the General Conference of the Methodist Church passed a plan to integrate the Central Jurisdictional Conference into the five regional jurisdictions.  These merged from 1964 to 1973, with the Georgia Conference uniting with the North Georgia Conference in 1971 and the South Georgia Conference in 1972.  

The North Georgia Conference supports a wide variety of services and institutions.  The Wesleyan Christian Advocate is a weekly newspaper supported by the North and South Georgia Conferences.  The United Methodist Children's Home (formerly known as the Orphan's Home), located in Decatur, was established in 1871.  The conference supports several institutions of higher learning: Emory University, originally established at Oxford in 1836; La Grange College, which began as a female academy in 1831; Reinhardt College, formerly a junior college founded in 1883; and Young Harris College, a junior college opened in 1882.  The church supports Wesley Foundations at nine other colleges and universities in the north Georgia area.  In addition to these institutions the North Georgia Conference has developed Camp Glisson, a summer camp and year round retreat facility in Dahlonega, and Simpsonwood Conference Center in Norcross.  United Methodist retirement centers include Wesley Woods in Atlanta and Wesley Village in Blairsville.

The North Georgia Conference is the basic governing body of the United Methodist Church (U.S.) for the northern portion of the state of Georgia.  It is composed of equal numbers of clergy and lay members elected from the individual churches in the conference.  The elected delegates meet in annual sessions to hear reports from all committees, vote on constitutional amendments, adopt rules and regulations for the Conference, and elect delegates to the General and Southeastern Jurisdictional Conferences. Clergy members of the Conference vote on all matters concerning ordination, character, and conference relations of ministers.  The resident bishop presides over the conference sessions, but is not a member of the body and cannot speak on the issues that are presented to the delegates.  While the bishop has no part in deciding which persons will be admitted as clergy members of the Conference, he or she is responsible for appointing pastors to serve in each charge within the Conference.

The North Georgia Conference is divided into twelve districts, the boundaries of which are determined on the basis of geography and population density.  Each of the districts is under the supervision of a district superintendent whose primary responsibilities include making certain that the churches within his or her district follow the guidelines of the Discipline, assisting the bishop in the process of appointing pastors to charges, and acting as minister to the pastors residing within the district.  The North Georgia Conference no longer requires that yearly conferences be held on the district level.  There are, however, a variety of training sessions and other district level meetings and activities throughout the year.

Each district is made up of charges, the basic unit of the Conference.  Each charge may include one or more local churches, all served by the same pastor.  Charges composed of more than one church are sometimes referred to as circuits.  Prior to 1968 each charge was required to meet on a quarterly basis and submit reports to the district superintendent, who presided over these Quarterly Conferences.  In the 1968 the Charge Conference replaced the Quarterly Conference as the governing body of the local church or charge.  It is composed of all officials of the church, the pastor, assistant pastors if any, and other specified officers.  The Charge Conference must meet at least once each year to set the budget for the coming year, elect church officers and delegates to the yearly sessions of the North Georgia Conference, and take care of other business matters pertaining specifically to the charge.

--Written by Nancy Watkins, 1997.
--Updated by Anne Graham, 2003.

The records of the North Georgia Conference are described separately.  Descriptions of all the series generated by the conference are linked to this agency history.

Last Modified: 06/12/2003