Archives and History

Burns United Methodist Church is the oldest African-American church in the state of Iowa. It was founded in 1866 by a few black men and women in Des Moines. The church chose its name to honor Francis Burns, an American missionary to Liberia who was elected to be the first African-American bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1858.

francisburnsIn 1928, Burns Methodist Episcopal Church erected its first permanent building located at 811 Crocker Street. Now parishioners worship in their new location, since April of 2011, at 1909 Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.

Historical papers about Burns UMC and our other United Methodist churches are maintained by the Iowa Conference Commission on Archives and History. Located on the campus of Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, the archives staff and student volunteers collect and preserve the historically significant records of the Iowa Conference, its agencies and its predecessors.

Visitors will find historical data, archives, books, literature and 154 relics related to United Methodism in Iowa. The materials are housed in a fire-safe archival depository. The commission, which is affiliated with the General Commission on Archives and History, is continuing to improve their capacity to store documents in electronic form. Apportionment gifts of $23,000 from the United Methodist churches of Iowa are earmarked for this work in 2017.

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