United Metropolitan Spiritual Churches of Christ

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United Metropolitan Spiritual Churches of Christ

The United Metropolitan Spiritual Churches of Christ were founded in 1945 by Bishop Thomas Watson, but date to the earliest days of the spiritual church movement in New Orleans. The spiritual movement, the name assumed by many African American Spiritualist churches in the early twentieth century, was brought to New Orleans by Rev. Leafy Anderson in 1921. The popular leader of the Eternal Life Christian Spiritualist Association attracted many African Americans who were interested in psychic phenomena and mediumship. Among them was Thomas Watson. In 1929, two years after Anderson's death, Watson withdrew from his association and founded the St. Joseph Helping Hand Church in a New Orleans suburb. This independent congregation grew by the addition of affiliated congregations into the St. Joseph Helping Hand Missionary Association (1934) and the Divine Spiritual Church of the Southwest (1935).

In 1936 Watson was elected senior bishop of the church. Among his major decisions for the new church was a rejection of his own heritage with Anderson. In 1940, having concluded that women should not be ordained ministers, he removed all of the women mediums and pastors, many of whom left the church. Then in 1942 Watson led his church into a merger with the Metropolitan Spiritual Churches of Christ to form the United Spiritual Churches of Christ. When William F. Taylor, the former president of the Metropolitan Churches, died shortly after the merger, Watson was selected to succeed him. However, Watson immediately ran into a conflict with Clarence Cobbs, who also thought he should be president of the United Spiritual Churches.

The conflict grew over the next three years and eventually Cobbs forced Watson out of office and became the new president. With his following, Watson withdrew and reorganized his following into the United Metropolitan Spiritual Churches of Christ. There is no difference in belief and practice between the two churches, and the area of disagreement was purely administrative.

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Jacobs, Claude F., and Andrew J. Kaslow. The Spiritual Churches of New Orleans: Origins, Beliefs, and Rituals of an African American Religion. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991.

Murphy, Larry G., J. Gordon Melton, and Gary L. Ward. Encyclopedia of African American Religions. New York: Garland Publishing, 1993.

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United Metropolitan Spiritual Churches of Christ