Methodism came to the British North American colonies as the Methodist Episcopal Church. One of the first regional splits was between the United States and England. This disagreement involved the position of the American congregants from the perspective of the founder, John Wesley, regarding the independence movement. Wesley, who still lived in England, opposed American independence and aimed to continue controlling the church from England. The American superintendent whom he had commissioned, Francis Asbury, had emigrated in 1771. Asbury insisted on putting his appointment to a vote by the Americans; he was duly elected.
Another early division came with the 1787 establishment of two African American branches, the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. The former was based in Philadelphia and the latter in New York. Early nineteenth-century expansion westward into the frontier, under the leadership of Bishop Asbury, was another regional separation.
The Second Great Awakening involved a groundswell in Methodist conversions. While many local churches were established, still more people learned of the movement through itinerant, ordained circuit preachers. In 1844, a General Conference was held. A significant schism was evident, involving the widely different positions on slavery. This rift proved unmendable, and delegates from Southern states established the Methodist Episcopal Church South.
In the twentieth century, a significant regional and sectional reorganization was put into place break and was motivated by three churches: the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Protestant Church, and the Methodist Episcopal Church South, united into one church with six jurisdictions. The Central Jurisdiction was racially rather than geographically based, pertaining to African American churches throughout the United States.