09 May On This Day in UB History: May 9 (General Conference)
On May 9, 1929, General Conference began at the King Street United Brethren church in Chambersburg, Pa. Beginning in 1949, General Conference would always be held in Huntington, Ind. (up through 2005). But before that, they moved around, like we do now for the US National Conference.
The previous year, 1928, King Street got a new pastor, a young fellow named Clyde Meadows (right). He would remain King Street’s pastor for 33 years, until being elected bishop in 1961. In one way or another, a Meadows was represented at General Conference for most of the 1900s.
Clyde’s father, a UB minister, attended the 1917 General Conference as a delegate from Virginia. It was held that year in Kitchener, Ontario — the only time General Conference was held outside of the United States (until 2010).
Clyde attended the next two General Conferences as part of a Huntington College quartet that provided special music — the 1921 conference in Messick, Ind., and 1925 conference in Adrian, Mich. He then was host pastor of the 1929 General Conference.
Meadows loved telling the story of what happened in 1933. Pennsylvania Conference elected him as a delegate to the conference held in Hillsdale, Mich. However, the rules said you had to be a member of your conference for three years, and he fell two months short. “Consequently, they more or less threw me out,” he wrote in his autobiography. “I could attend the sessions, eat with the delegates, and stay in the dormitory, but I couldn’t vote or speak.”
From 1937-1961, Meadows was a legitimate delegate from Pennsylvania Conference. He chaired the 1965 and 1969 General Conferences as bishop, and from 1973-1993 was, again, an elected delegate from Pennsylvania Conference. In those later years, he was always called upon to make the motion to adjourn. He then attended the 1997 General Conference; as Bishop Emeritus, he had advisory status. Clyde Meadows passed away two years later, at age 98.
In 1929, we had 20 conferences, 19 of which sent delegates to King Street for General Conference. That seemed to be a high water mark. Conferences soon began a series of mergers, until in 1981, we were down to 11 conferences. As an example, the Auglaize and Scioto conferences in Ohio merged to form Auglaize-Scioto Conference, and in 1973 they merged with Indiana’s White River conference to form Central Conference.