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James O'Kelly.

James O'Kelly (born 1735 in Tidewater Virginia; died October 16, 1826 in Chatham County, North Carolina) was an American clergyman during the Second Great Awakening and an important figure in the early history of Methodism in America. Appointed as a Methodist circuit rider in 1777, he organized preaching circuits in central and southeastern North Carolina during the American Revolutionary War. He continued his affiliation with the Methodist Episcopal Church from its formal organization at the Christmas Conference in 1784 when he was ordained an elder. Well regarded as a preacher, he successfully supervised pastors in several regions of Virginia and North Carolina.

O'Kelly, who favored the congregationalist system of church polity, came to oppose the church's system of centralized episcopal authority, which he believed infringed on the freedom of preachers. At the 1792 General Conference of the Methodist Church he introduced a resolution that would allow clergy to appeal to the Conference if they believed their assignments from the bishop to be unsatisfactory. After several days of debate, the resolution was defeated. In protest, O'Kelly withdrew from the denomination and with his supporters founded the Republican Methodist Church, later known simply as the Christian Church, or "Connection", which merged with the Congregational churches in 1931 to form the Congregational Christian Churches. This body, in turn, merged with the German-American Evangelical and Reformed Church in 1957 to form the present United Church of Christ.

See also

  • Methodist New Connexion in Britain.
  • Moore, M. H. Pioneers of Methodism in North Carolina and Virginia, 1884.
  • Kilgore, Charles Franklin. The James O'Kelly Schism in the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1963.

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