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“God is Love: Radical Inclusion:” Sherman Church to celebrate 55 years of racial inclusion in the United Methodist Church on Saturday

At the 1968 General Conference, held April 21-May 4, 1968, in Dallas, racial segregation was one of the main issues confronting the merger that created The United Methodist Church. (Photo courtesy of United Methodist Commission on Archives and History)

Sherman Avenue United Methodist Church, a multicultural community of faith on Madison’s north side, will host a worship service event on Saturday, April 22, titled “God is Love: Radical Inclusion” to acknowledge the United Methodist Church’s 55th anniversary of its decision to be fully racially inclusive.

“It’ll be a worship service where we acknowledge the 55th anniversary of the United Methodist Church combining into one organization and becoming fully inclusive racially,” Sherman Church Rev. David Hart tells Madison365. “We’re going to have Reverend Joseph Baring as the speaker. There will be other individuals who will be making presentations and we will host a reception afterward. It is going to be a good time.”

Saturday’s theme will be “God is Love.”

“With the theme, we just want to express the inclusiveness of God – that God is not simply tolerant, but God teaches us the way of loving kindness and meeting people where they are … but also finding them in their pain and oppression and working with all of us here to make the world a better place,” Hart says.



The United Methodist Church was officially formed on April 23, 1968, with the unification of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, along with the dissolution of the Central Jurisdiction, which segregated African-Americans from their Methodist brethren.

“So there were several components of the Methodism that had been existing and operating and that included historically Black Methodist strands. The CME Church, the AME, AME Zion, and so forth,” Hart remembers. “There were several groups of Methodist churches that had existed and there were districts in which Black congregations were present and growing, but the body was not entirely inclusive. So, in 1968, there was a unification of all of these bodies and an acknowledgment that there needed to be inclusiveness on all fronts, particularly of race.

“Of course, we’re now finding ourselves as a United Methodist Church in familiar and somber territory in that we’re having a very similar discussion about whether or not people should be included, loved, and welcomed into the church because of who God made them and who God made them to love.”

Rev. David Hart

The worship service, Hart adds, will be part history lesson, part healing dialogue, and all-engaging worship to observe the 55th anniversary of the unification of the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist Churches, held in 1968. 

Hart says that there is still more work to be done around diversity and inclusion, but it’s also important to acknowledge “where we have come from.”

“There’s no question that as a society, as a culture, as a country, and as a communion, we have taken tremendous steps to be inclusive. Clearly, there’s more work that has to be done,” Hart says. “We as the church have to speak publicly in allyship for women, Black women, for those who are marginalized and oppressed. And so as not just Dr. King said, but any number of prophets who stood on the side of the oppressed, would say, ‘when there is injustice anywhere or when the oppressed exist anywhere, that means it exists for all of us.’  So until oppression is alleviated, until justice is administered for everyone and equality and equity are a reality for everyone, then we still have work to do as a church, as a community, and as a society, as well.”

Sherman United Methodist Church
(Photo by A. David Dahmer)


The Wisconsin Council of Churches will be co-sponsoring the event. Hart stresses that the whole community is invited. 

“Saturday’s event is open to everybody. It’s going to be Jesus-centered, but there are certainly going to be many aspects for the secular community and folks who are not Christians … just in terms of the historical context we will provide,” he says. “We’re going to have folks like Sondra Brown who is a consultant on equity, diversity and inclusion, speak to the historical framework of this anniversary. There will be pieces in the worship service for everyone. This celebration and acknowledgment are open to everyone and everyone is invited and will feel at home and welcome there.”


“God is Love: Radical Inclusion” will take place Saturday, April 22, 5 p.m. Sherman Avenue United Methodist Church is located at 3705 N. Sherman Ave. in Madison.