On Saturday evening, the Commission on Archives and History (CAH) hosted the “50 Years Together” Banquet to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the union between the Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) Church to form The United Methodist Church at the historic Uniting Conference in Dallas, Texas in 1968. After dinner was served, the Rev. Dan Dick, acting as host for the banquet on behalf of CAH, introduced the panel of people who would be presenting throughout the program: Bishop Donald Ott, the Rev. Donald Fenner, Bishop Linda Lee, the Rev. Christine Bethke, and Bishop Hee-Soo Jung.

Dan joked, “We are here to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of a marriage that some thought would never work…It took time: there was courtship, there was dating. The couple didn’t always like each other.” On a more serious note, he said that despite their differences, “They held onto their common heritage and their mutual respect for the vision of John Wesley. What made their union much more likely was their commitment to evangelism, global missions, and social justice. These two organizations decided that the things they had in common were so much more important than the things they disagreed on.” He then introduced the video “1968 Uniting Conference,” the first of several videos that the CAH created for the evening. The video contained footage from the historic 1968 Conference.

Bishop Donald Ott and the Rev. Donald Fenner reflected on their personal history together, and the history of The United Methodist Church. Fenner was a pastor in the EUB before the union. On his thoughts of the union at the time, he said, “I didn’t know where it was going to lead me, and that’s all right. I was a minister, and was ready to go wherever I was asked to go, and do the best I could. I’m happy that the merger took place. But let me share one more thing: I have hung onto my roots of EUB, and will probably never leave them. But I do embrace The United Methodist Church.” Fenner also discussed how the issue of race was very important for the EUB. They insisted that the Methodist Church get rid of the race-based Central Jurisdiction. They held onto that issue and fought for it. There were several other issues that the EUB had to compromise on in order to make the union happen, but that was the issue they refused to give up.

Bishop Ott warmly remembered the many contributions the EUB brought to the union that he personally experienced. And even though he came from a Methodist background, he thought that he might have “EUB elements in his DNA.”

Dan Dick said, “They were two very different churches. The EUB was very progressive for its time on the race issue.” He then introduced the video “Historic Background: Central Jurisdiction” from CAH.

Bishop Linda Lee discussed the demise of the race-based Central Jurisdiction, and how we can view that today. She said, “It is a memory we can use now to help lead the culture, instead of following it…Even though we still have a long way to go, the Church taking that step towards wholeness is important, and I’m appreciative of the EUB.”

Dick then presented two videos from the CAH: “Headlines from Our Last 50 Years Together” and “Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader Reflects on 1980 Election of Bishop Marjorie S. Matthews.”

Rev. Christine Bethke discussed the changing role of women in leadership in our Conference, and the impact of Bishop Marjorie Matthews’ election. Matthews was the first woman elected bishop of any mainline Christian church.She served the Wisconsin area for four years, retiring in 1984. A second video of Bishop Matthews was shown, “Bishop Matthews’ Years in Wisconsin.”

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung reflected on the diverse face of Wisconsin, then invited Bishop Eduard Khegay, Bishop of the Eurasia Episcopal Area, to the stage to share his thoughts. Bishop Khegay said, “When you do ministry and emphasize mission, there are people around the world who will be impacted by that and be saved by that.” The evening ended with the Rev. Jorge Luis Mayorga leading the singing of “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love,” which was also sung at the 1969 Wisconsin Uniting Conference. All of the videos played at the banquet are linked here. The program was produced by Conference Historian Sandy Kintner and Archivist Lynn Lubkeman.