Touchstones With History: Connecticut Conference Celebrates 150 Years

7/13/2017
By John Van Epps

This year marks the 150 anniversary of the formation of the Connecticut Conference in 1867.  What was going on for the two hundred years before that?  

The Missionary Society of Connecticut had been formed in 1798 to send missionaries to the west- the new areas of the United States.  Then in 1816 the Domestic Missionary Society was formed to “build up the waste places of Connecticut” (the famous phrase by Lyman Beecher).  Both of these were voluntary associations formed by the actions of our General Association (of ministers).  That was an outgrowth of the Saybrook Synod of 1708, along with the area or county Associations of ministers and Consociations of churches.  These three organizations provided fellowship, guidance, and direction for our churches and clergy.  Then why not have a fourth- a state (or colony) wide Consociation of churches?  It didn’t happen.  

As early as 1751 the General Association proposed a general consociation of churches for the whole colony, but no further action was taken.  Then in 1794 there was a proposal to have an annual General Convention of ministers and churches for “the advancement of union and mutual Christian intercourse, uniformity and energy” and “uniformity in the mode of ecclesiastical process in the several parts of the state.”  The next year the plan was dropped because a majority of the associations “did not think it expedient to adopt such measures at present.”  Afterward the emphasis was changed from “order and discipline” to “evangelization and missionary service” with the formation of the two societies mentioned above, along with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1812 (formed jointly with Massachusetts). 

Finally there was impetus in the early 1860s for the creation of a General Conference of Connecticut Churches, which was organized in November 1867.  Gradually over the next twenty years the functions of the General Association and the other organizations were transferred to the conference.  So Happy Birthday to the Connecticut Conference!