A Timeline of the Southeast Conference

  • 1681 — Non-Anglican Protestant settlers in Charleston, SC establish the “Independent Meeting House.” The church continues to operate today as Circular Congregational Church.
  • 1754 — Puritans from New England (via SC) establish the community and church of Midway, GA. The Congregational church there sent many men into the Christian ministry, and some of its members became high-ranking colonial politicians.
  • 1830s — The “Christian” movement founded by James O’Kelly in the 1790s appears for the first time in present Conference territory with several churches emerging in GA. The movement had spread to AL by 1850.
  • 1865 — The end of the Civil War witnesses the emergence of a large number of schoolteachers and ministers sent by the American Missionary Association to teach, and bring the Gospel to, recently emancipated slaves. Many schools, colleges and churches are formed as a result.
  • 1867 — The first African-American Congregational church founded under AMA auspices, Plymouth Church in Charleston, SC, begins.
  • 1869 — Some farmers from Switzerland immigrate to Grundy County, TN. Descendants of these settlers established German Reformed churches in Belvidere (1873) and Nashville (1891).
  • 1873 — Johann Cullmann, a failed revolutionary from Bavaria, brings a group of Germans from Cincinnati, OH to north central AL to establish the city of Cullman and, the following year, St. John’s Evangelical Protestant Church.
  • 1882 — The first postbellum Euro-American Congregational church in present Conference territory, Piedmont Church, begins in Atlanta. It is known today as Central Congregational Church.
  • 1888 — Numerous Euro-American Congregational Methodist churches in GA join the Congregational fellowship, with some AL congregations joining later.
  • 1931 — Congregationalists and Christians merge.
  • 1934 — The Evangelical Synod of North America, with two churches in AL, and the Reformed Church in the United States, with two congregations in TN, join to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
  • 1939 — The South Indiana Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church is established at a meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • 1949 — The state conferences of Euro-American Congregational Christians in AL and Northwest Florida, GA and SC, and TN and Kentucky, join forces to create the Southeast Convention. The Rev. Dr. David W. Shepherd is the first superintendent.
  • 1950 — African-American Congregational Christian churches and conferences throughout most Southern states finally obtain autonomy with the founding of the Convention of the South, led by the Rev. J. Taylor Stanley.
  • 1952 — The Rev. Erston M. Butterfield, an assistant superintendent in OH, becomes superintendent of the Southeast Convention.
  • 1955 The Rev. Andrew Young, later a Civil Rights leader, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and mayor of Atlanta, begins ministerial career serving two small AMA churches in southwest GA.
  • 1957 — The Rev. James H. Lightbourne, Jr., a Suffolk, Virginia pastor, becomes superintendent of the Southeast Convention.
  • 1957 — The United Church of Christ comes into being from the union of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
  • 1960 — United Church of Huntsville, AL, the first new church start in the Southeast as a UCC congregation, begins operation.
  • 1962 — Fraternal delegates from the Convention of the South attend a meeting of the Southeast Convention, held at Pilgrim Congregational Church in Birmingham, AL, for the first time.
  • 1965 — After an unsuccessful attempt a year earlier and by only a 54 percent vote, the Southeast Convention decides to invite the churches of the Convention of the South and former Evangelical and Reformed churches in its territory to join. This will become the new Southeast Conference.
  • 1966 — The Southeast Conference, one of the last conferences to take shape in the UCC, begins operation, with the Rev. Jesse Dollar serving as interim conference minister. Nine associations, only one of which is integrated, enter the Conference.
  • 1966 — The Rev. Dr. William J. Andes, an Elon College, NC pastor, becomes the first elected conference minister.
  • 1969 — The Conference takes major steps forward in racial reconciliation with the formation of the AL-TN and GA-SC associations and the election of the Rev. Dr. Homer C. McEwen, pastor of First Congregational Church in Atlanta, as the first African-American moderator of the Conference.
  • 1974 — The UCC begins its national 17/76 campaign to aid the historic AMA colleges in the South and other educational endeavors. Led by strong participation from its African-American congregations, Southeast Conference churches contribute over $65,000 by the end of the decade.
  • 1978 — Millard Fuller, a son of the Lanett, AL Congregational Christian Church, starts Habitat for Humanity.
  • 1980 — After 14 years, Dr. Andes retires from the Conference Minister post, giving the reins to the Rev. Dr. Emmett O. Floyd, a Greensboro, NC pastor.
  • 1988 — Dr. Floyd retires and is replaced by the Rev. Roger D. Knight, a regional executive of the UCC’s Office for Church Life and Leadership in Minneapolis. The Rev. Horace S. Sills, a veteran conference minister from PA, serves as interim.
  • 1990 — The Conference adopts a new constitution and by-laws, to strengthen its committees and enable them to respond to the congregations’ needs and the mission of the larger church.
  • 1991 — The Conference embarks on its first-ever capital funds campaign, Visions ‘91.
  • 1994 — Brookmeade Congregational Church in Nashville becomes the Conference’s first church to adopt the Open and Affirming (ONA) designation, welcoming gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered into full participation in its life.
  • 1995 — The Rev. Mr. Knight resigns to take a pastorate in Cleveland, OH. A former South Central Conference associate minister, the Rev. Edwin Melhaff, becomes interim.
  • 1996 — The Rev. Dr. Timothy C. Downs, an Allentown, PA pastor, is elected the fourth Southeast Conference Minister.
  • 1996 — Community Congregational Church in Montgomery, AL becomes the Conference’s first-ever successful African-American new church start.
  • 1999 — The Conference begins a several-year program to record the histories of its AMA-heritage congregations called “Rekindle the Gift.” The Rev. Joyce Hollyday, Associate Conference Minister, directs the effort, which results in a book published in 2005 titled On the Heels of Freedom.
  • 1999 — The Rev. Dr. Richard Sales, Associate Conference Minister and a former missionary in Africa, begins conducting sessions of the Theology Among the People (TAP) program, designed to prepare laypeople and licensed pastors to conduct ministry more effectively.
  • 2000 — Open Community UCC in Atlanta begins, marking the first-ever church for Koreans and Korean-Americans in the Conference.
  • 2001 — Church of the Savior in Roswell, GA, a congregation formerly affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, joins the UCC, bringing a new tradition into the Conference.
  • 2002 — Stone Mountain, GA’s Victory Church, an African-American congregation with more than 5,000 members, joins the UCC. This more than doubles the Conference’s membership.
  • 2005 — The Conference hosts the 25th General Synod of the UCC, held at the GA World Congress Center in Atlanta July 1-5. The Synod receives national attention for its support of the right of same-sex couples to marry.
  • 2006 — Conference Associate Minister Cameron Trimble launches the “Comma Connections” initiative to provide worship and fellowship to those not desiring to associate with a traditional church structure.
  • 2006 — The Conference embarks upon the “Nehemiah Initiative” to plant and strengthen new churches and reinvigorate existing ones.
  • 2007 — The Conference adopts a new constitution and by-laws, to correspond with the national UCC restructuring of 1999.
  • 2009 — The Conference votes overwhelmingly to begin its second-ever capital funds campaign, titled “Transforming Churches, Transforming Lives.”
  • 2010 — The Nehemiah Initiative and its New Church Leadership Institute becomes its own stand-alone organization, The Center for Progressive Renewal. It becomes a full-fledged counseling service for churches and pastors.
  • 2011 — Thanks to a grant by the Henry Luce Foundation, the TAP program offered selected individuals an opportunity to travel for Thailand for a “global immersion experience.”
  • 2011 — The TAP program began a phase-out in favor of a new, intentional ministerial preparation course of study titled “PATHWAYS.”
  • 2011-12 — The three functioning associations within the Conference cede their historic church and ministry functions (ordination and supervision) to a new Conference-wide committee. By 2013, the GA-SC Association had disbanded as a result.
  • 2013 — The Rev. Dr. Downs retires after 17 years as conference minister; Randy Hyvonen, a Montana native, serves as interim.
  • 2014 — The Conference unanimously elects the Rev. June Boutwell, recently a director of a church campground in California and interim pastor of a Disciples of Christ congregation, as conference minister for a designated three-year term.
  • 2015 — With the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the nation, several Conference congregations are at the forefront, advocating for legalization and providing space and personnel for weddings.

©1999-2017, Southeast Conference UCC.
All Rights Reserved.