Sermons, Systems and Strategies

The Geographic Strategies of the Methodist Episcopal Church in its Expansion into New York State, 1788 - 1810

by Michael G. Nickerson

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Synopsis

Institutions develop geographic strategies in order to diffuse their ideas and organizations. These strategies may be either or both explicit and implicit and involve the generation of organizational structures, the examination of problems and possibilities and the deployment of resources. American Protestant religious institutions expand territorially and numerically by establishing new congregations. Founding methods, operational relationships between judicatories and existing congregations, and deployment processes of six denominations (Dutch Reformed, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational, Baptist and Methodist) in upstate New York before 1810 are explored, with special emphasis on the Methodist Episcopal Church which showed the most successful expansion during that period. A series of maps and charts have been assembled to indicate the diffusion patterns of these six religious institutions. The various time periods examined, 1788 and before, 1789-1793, 1794-1798, 1799-1803, 1804-1810, correspond with significant growth and realignments of Methodist districts. The results of this study show that geographic strategies have directly affected the success and failure of denominational expansion.

About The Author

Michael Nickerson became senior pastor of Parker United Methodist Church on June 1, 2000. He is a member of the Rocky Mountain Conference Committee on New Ministries and the District Committee on Ministry.

Dr. Nickerson came to Parker after having served as President of United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio, one of thirteen United Methodist Seminaries in the U. S. Previously he served as Senior Pastor at Central United Methodist Church in Downtown Phoenix. Organized in 1870, Central is the oldest Protestant Congregation in Arizona.

Dr. Nickerson began his ministry as the pastor of several United Methodist Churches in Michigan before being appointed to the position of Director of Research Design for the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry in Nashville, Tennessee. This board relates the United Methodist Church to its 103 colleges and 13 seminaries.

In 1986, Dr. Nickerson was appointed to serve as the Program Director and Director of Congregational Development for the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church based in Phoenix, AZ. During his five years as Director of Congregational Development he was responsible for the program that initiated 23 new churches in Arizona and southern Nevada.

He graduated magna cum laude from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts, received a Master of Divinity from United Theological Seminary, a Master of Arts in Urban Geography from Miami University of Ohio and a Ph. D. in Historical Geography from Syracuse University.

Dr. Nickerson served eight years on the General Commission on Archives and History, on the Arizona State Department of Education's Values and Education Task Force and the Phoenix Citizens Committee for a Master Plan for South Mountain Park. He has also taught summer graduate courses at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California and has worked as a consultant in strategic planning with several non-profit organizations. He enjoys hiking with his wife Ti, music, and maps.