Methodism came to Florida with the circuit riders who followed the trails across the border from Georgia after the United States took control of the territory from the Spanish in 1821. Work in the peninsula of Florida, historically known as East Florida, came officially under the South Carolina Conference in January 1822, when the first appointment was made to Amelia Island. In 1831, the conference was divided and the newly formed Georgia Conference assumed the Florida work.
In December 1821 the Mississippi Conference had assigned a preacher to Pensacola, in what was known as West Florida. Eventually, however, the Panhandle came under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Conference and later the Alabama-West Florida Conference, where it remains today.
By the 1840s came the push for statehood and along with its momentum came the push among Methodists to establish a conference of their own. The General Conference of 1844 created the Florida Conference, and on February 6, 1845, in Tallahassee it was organized as part of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Statehood came a month later. Together the state and the conference grew to maturity.
Since 1845 the work in Florida has been carried out in a number of conferences, which have been created, divided, and united.
In 1939 three of those conferences—the Florida Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, the St. Johns River Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Florida Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church—united to form the Florida Conference, Southeastern Jurisdiction, of The Methodist Church.
At the same time the two black conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church became part of the racially segregated Central Jurisdiction of The Methodist Church. They united in 1952.
In 1968 The Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church, which had had a presence in Florida since 1895, and the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church came into being. In 1969 the Central Jurisdiction churches also became part of the Florida Conference, Southeastern Jurisdiction, of The United Methodist Church.
The story of the Florida Conference is written in the lives of the circuit riders and their modern-day counterparts who have followed the waves of population throughout the state, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is also written in the work of the people of local churches who have responded to the call of the gospel.
Further information can be found in the following histories of the Florida Conference:
Florida Flame, by the Reverend Robert M. Temple, Jr., 1987
From Saddlebags to Satellites, edited by the Reverend William E. Brooks, 1969
The Trail of the Florida Circuit Rider, by Dr. Charles Tinsley Thrift, Jr., 1944
The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church
450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33815
(863) 688-5563 or toll free (800) 282-8011