Home Worship Planning History of Hymns Methodist Hymnal Publishing: A Brief History

Methodist Hymnal Publishing: A Brief History

Methodist Denominations

  • The Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) was the dominant Methodist denomination following the establishment of the church in the USA by Wesley’s ordination of Coke and Asbury as bishops and sending them as superintendents of the church in the USA in 1784.
  • There were a number of Wesleyan German revival movements that arose in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that eventually joined or merged with the MEC or The Methodist Church (MC): United Brethren Church in Christ, German Reformed Church, Evangelical Association, United Evangelical Church, and the Evangelical United Brethren Church.
  • The Methodist Protestant Church (MPC) broke off from the MEC in 1828, retaining Wesleyan doctrine and worship but preferring a congregational rather than an episcopal form of governance. A majority of their congregations reunited with the Methodist Church in 1939. Those that did not retained their status as a separate denomination, of which there are about 42 churches today, mostly in the south.
  • The issue of slavery split the MEC with the founding of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS) in 1844.
  • Leading up to and shortly following the Civil War, three African American denominations were formed as they left the MECS. In 1816, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC) was founded in Philadelphia by Richard Allen, who was consecrated its first bishop. In 1821, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was founded in New York City; and in 1870, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church was organized with the full support of the MECS. All three remain independent Methodist denominations today.
  • In 1939, the MPC, MEC and MECS merged to form The Methodist Church. Some conservative MECS churches did not participate in the merger and in 1940 formed what is today The Southern Methodist Church.
  • In 1968 The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren Church merged to form The United Methodist Church.

Tune Books

  • There were a number of early Methodist tune books published that supported the singing of the words-only hymnals. Some of the prominent tune books were issued in 1821 (the first authorized tune book), 1843, 1844, 1848 and 1849.
  • In 1858, a companion tune book was issued for the 1849 MEC hymnal, which contained 1,148 hymns.
  • The first hymnal with text and tunes for all hymns came from the MECS in 1860, but texts and tunes were in separate sections of the hymnal.

Modern Hymnals

  • The 1878 MEC hymnal is considered the first modern-era hymnal, printing texts and tunes on the same page in four-part harmony, which set the format for succeeding hymnals.
  • In 1897, the United Evangelical Church (UEC) published its official hymnal complete with tunes.
  • By the turn of the twentieth century, it was clear the MEC and MECS were headed toward reunification with the settling of the slavery issue by the Civil War. Both denominations, still separate in 1905, jointly issued the Pan-Methodist Hymnal.
  • With the merger of all three denominations in preparation, the 1935 Methodist Hymnal was jointly prepared and issued by the MPC, MEC and MECS. While the body of hymns and some ritual were identical, each denomination’s publication retained some distinctive ritual.
  • The merger of MPC, MEC and MECS into The Methodist Church was completed in 1939, and the 1935 joint hymnals were revised so that all hymnals were now identical.
  • A new hymnal for The Methodist Church was issued in 1966 (The Methodist Hymnal).
  • In 1957 The Evangelical United Brethren Church published its official hymnal with hymns, music, psalter and ritual, replacing the 1897 UEC hymnal.
  • The 1966 Methodist Hymnal and the 1957 EUB hymnal were both recognized as official hymnals of The United Methodist Church (formed by merger in 1968) until the 1989 publication of The United Methodist Hymnal.
  • The official Spanish language United Methodist Hymnal, Mil Voces Para Celebrar, was published in 1996.
  • The official Korean-English bilingual United Methodist Hymnal, Come, Let Us Worship, was published in 2001.
  • An official United Methodist Hymnal for Africana churches is anticipated for publication in 2014.

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