Our History

8917940731_e41013931e_oThe Southeast Conference (SEC) is one of the 36 conferences of the United Church of Christ. It comprises a five-state area including the states of Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee (excluding the city of Memphis), Alabama, and Mississippi (excluding the coastal area surrounding Interstate 10).

This conference bears the strong heritage of several missionary efforts dating back to the postbellum period of the late 19th century. The Southeast Conference is the legal successor to the Southeast Convention of Congregational Christian Churches, which existed from 1949 to 1965; the legal name change took place on July 7, 1966, but operations began on January 1 of that year.

Before the formation of the Southeast Conference, the Congregational Christian Convention of the South was the body to which African-American Black Congregational and Afro-Christian and recently-started churches belonged. Twenty-two of those congregations joined the new Southeast Conference; 15 are still with the Conference today.

Two churches in Alabama and two in Tennessee were of German and Swiss descent and belonged to the South Indiana Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church during the mid-20th century. From this group, one church in Franklin County, Tennessee remains affiliated with the Conference.

Congregationalism has been a little-known and minor tradition among Southern churches.

CircularChurchHistoricalOur roots, however, extend back to the establishment of the Circular Congregational Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 1681 and the historic Midway Congregational Church in Midway, Georgia, established in 1752 (not to be confused with the current church by that name). The work of the American Missionary Association during the latter part of the 19th century, through which an estimated 500 schools and 200 churches were established to serve the recently emancipated enslaved, has left an enduring impact on the life of the Southeast Conference.

Other strands of past and current denominational traditions that have been parts of the Southeast Conference include Congregational Methodism, Black Congregationalism, Afrocentric Christianity, Welsh Congregationalism, the Evangelical and Reformed Church, and Euro-American churches of the Christian Connection.

For an overview of the history of the conference, check out this presentation provided by Michael Stroud.

For a comprehensive history of the conference, visit our Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southeast_Conference,_United_Church_of_Christ

Project 66-16

For an in-depth look at the history of the Southeast Conference visit Project 66-16, an initiative to record, compile, and write our history. This collection contains newsletters and other important documents from the past of the Conference and its immediate predecessor, the Southeast Convention of Congregational Christian Churches. Mike Stroud, member of United Church of Huntsville, Alabama (UCC), is the director. For more information email mikestroud@charter.net.

Blog Posts

Learn more about our history in the following articles:

This Month in SEC History: November 1994

by Mike Stroud When one mentions that a UCC congregation is "Open and Affirming" these days,...

This Month in SEC History: October 1979

by Mike Stroud Women in the church have recently gotten an amazing, and long-overdue, amount of...

This Month in SEC History: September 1966

by Mike Stroud A large number of churches have come and gone through the Southeast Conference's doors...

This Month in SEC History: August 1989

by Mike Stroud The SEC has always felt the need to speak up about injustice, even...

This Month in SEC History: July 2005

by Mike Stroud Eighteen years ago this month, the Southeast Conference reached perhaps the pinnacle of its...

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Southeast Conference

Written by Michael Stroud as part of the monthly historical article celebrating the 50th Anniversary...

Memories of a Southern Sojourn

From Memories of a Southern Sojourn by Erston M. Butterfield, unpublished manuscript, October 2001 In the Spring...

Errand in the Wilderness: Congregationalism in Appalachia

Appalachia is an overlooked region of the United States, put bluntly. No one considers it...

A Kudzu Pilgrimage: Liberal Congregationalism in the Southland

In the overall spectrum of American Christianity, Congregationalism has, for better or worse, occupied a...