From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
UMNS# 04427-United Methodist Bishop L. Scott Allen dies at age
Mon, 20 Sep 2004 17:14:59 -0500
United Methodist Bishop L. Scott Allen dies at age 86
Sep. 20, 2004 News media contact: Tim Tanton * (615) 7425470*
NOTE: A photograph of Bishop L. Scott Allen is available with this story at
By United Methodist News Service*
United Methodist Bishop L. Scott Allen, 86, the last bishop elected in the
former Methodist Church - now part of the United Methodist Church - died
18 at Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta of complications from pneumonia.
Allen was also the last bishop elected in the former Methodist Central
Jurisdiction, a racially constituted entity created in the predominantly
church in 1939 but dissolved early in 1968.
"He was a giant of a leader in our denomination," said North Georgia Bishop
Lindsey Davis, one of several speakers at Allen's funeral service Sept. 22.
"Even after he retired, he continued to have a wonderful impact on our church
through his work at Gammon (Theological Seminary) and the way he mentored so
many of the young pastors who were coming through Gammon."
Davis recalled visiting Allen, who had suffered from a number of illnesses in
recent years, on Sept. 5. "He told me, 'Bishop, I'm ready to go on to the
other side of the river.'"
A native of Meridian, Miss., Allen served as a pastor, editor and teacher
before being elected a bishop by the Central Jurisdiction Aug. 18, 1967, and
assigned to the Gulf Coast Area, including Central Alabama, Florida and
The Central Jurisdiction was eliminated as a condition for union between the
Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren churches in April 1968. In the new
United Methodist Church, Allen was reassigned to the Holston Annual
Conference, comprising congregations in Southwest Virginia, East Tennessee
North Georgia in the predominantly white Southeastern Jurisdiction. In this
position, he became the first African-American bishop to serve in a
predominantly white area of the church. In 1976, he was assigned to the
Charlotte (N.C.) Area, where he served until his retirement in 1984.
Only one other bishop remains who was elected in the former Methodist Central
Jurisdiction: James S. Thomas of Atlanta.
Thomas recalled that his ministry paralleled Allen's. They became friends at
Gammon in 1940, said Thomas, who was elected to the episcopacy in 1964.
"He had a very high conception of the church," Thomas said. "He loved the
church, and that was why he was such a careful student of the Bible, of
theology, and also of the Book of Discipline."
Thomas also recalled that from his earliest days, Allen was always impeccably
dressed in his preacher's attire: dark suit, white tie and hat. "I knew him
for 64 years, and I've never seen him in shirt sleeves."
"He really believed in the vision of the United Methodist Church; he really
believed in unity after merger," said M. Garlinda Burton, interim top staff
executive of the Commission on the Status and Role of Women in Evanston, Ill.
Allen was a family friend and mentor to Burton, and was her childhood bishop
in two different annual conferences.
At the time of unity, a lot of people feared a loss of power for African
Americans, Burton said. "He encouraged us to take our gifts into the larger
church and to go in good faith. It was a scary time, but he believed in
sharing those strengths."
Said Davis: "Having gone through all the experiences he did, and coming into
being a bishop of the United Methodist Church in the late 1960s, he had an
incredible gift for forgiveness and reconciliation."
Allen earned an undergraduate degree from Clark College and his bachelor of
divinity degree from Gammon Theological Seminary, both in Atlanta, and his
master of arts degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He also
had honorary degrees from several colleges. After his retirement he
established a Center for Ministerial Exchange, Education and Training of a
Ministry for Inclusiveness and Open Itinerancy at Gammon.
Ordained an elder in 1942, he served as pastor of several churches in Georgia
before being named editor of the Central Christian Advocate, the fifth
consecutive editor of the newspaper elected a bishop. One of his predecessors
was Bishop Prince Albert Taylor Jr., who died in 2001.
Allen served on the governing boards of numerous United Methodist and
ecumenical agencies. He served as president of the church's Commission on
Religion and Race, Commission on Archives and History, and the World Division
of the Board of Global Ministries. He was a member of the Constituting
Convention of the National Council of Churches in 1950 and was active in the
He is survived by his wife, the former Sara Adams, whom he married in 1942.
*This story was written by Tom McAnally, former director of United Methodist
News Service, with quotes provided by Alice Smith, editor of the Wesleyan
Christian Advocate newspaper, and Tim Tanton of UMNS.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 and
United Methodist News Service
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