Pictured, Gramling, the 2023 recipient of the “Ministry of Memory” Award, proposes a motion from the floor at the recent South Carolina Annual Conference. Photo by Matt Brodie.
Dr. Roger M. Gramling, a retired elder of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, has been named the 2023 recipient of the “Ministry of Memory” Award.
The award, which recognizes and encourages excellence in archival and historical work, is presented by the Historical Society of The United Methodist Church with the support of the General Commission on Archives and History.
The announcement was made during the annual meeting of the UMC Historical Society, May 15-18, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Gramling’s nomination was based on his more than 50 years involvement in historical research and preservation at the local church, conference and jurisdictional level. His involvement in historical research began with the preservation and promotion of the history of his home church while he was a teenager.
He was nominated for the Ministry of Memory award by Joyce E. Plyler, a former president of the Conference Historical Society.
Gramling is the author of five books related to Methodist history and was the general editor of the 2001 edition of United Methodist Ministers in South Carolina. He currently serves as president of the Southeastern Jurisdiction Historical Society, secretary-treasurer of the South Carolina Conference Historical Society and a member of the SEJ Commission on Archives and History.
In her nomination, Plyler lifted up Gramling’s work to preserve the Burdine Lodge. Gramling spearheaded a project to raise funds for the restoration of this 1790s-era log cabin, which was a lodging place for Francis Asbury (as documented in his Journal) and in which an early Methodist society was formed. Under Dr. Gramling’s leadership, more than $30,000 was raised on behalf of the South Carolina Conference Historical Society of the UMC. In coordination with county and local leaders, the lodge was restored and located at the Hagood Mill Historic Site in Pickens County, where it will serve to educate current and future generations about the influence of Methodism in early America.
Plyler also noted that Gramling has played critical roles in the South Carolina Conference Historical Society for many years.
“In this capacity, he is without peer, doing the work of yeoman, wise counselor and conscientious leader,” she wrote in her nomination.
Much of his work of historical preservation has been behind the scenes, she noted. For example, he created and maintained a database of the founding dates of all United Methodist Churches in the South Carolina Conference. Over the years, he diligently worked with churches to help determine their founding date and to keep the database current. This was no easy task because the South Carolina Conference is one of the six original Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America and has many churches dating to the late 1700s and early 1800s, for which records are scant. Though now maintained by others, this database remains the “go to” document for this important information. In addition, Dr. Gramling’s extensive personal files and memory have provided assistance countless times for individuals seeking more information about their Methodist ancestors or their church.
Along with Dr. A.V. Huff and others, Gramling was responsible for reviving the society and ensuring that it would be a vibrant participant in keeping Methodist history alive within the South Carolina Conference.
Plyler also noted how, at the close of 2018, Gramling retired as president of the South Carolina United Methodist Foundation, for which he had been the chief executive since 1985. Through this foundation, he and his wife, Marilyn, created a restricted endowment fund for the benefit of the historic White House UMC, Orangeburg. Gramling filed the documentation leading to placement of this c. 1850 primitive structure on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and wrote a history of the church in 1981. It is the oldest congregation in Orangeburg County, dating to 1788, and one of the oldest in the state.
His counsel has helped many others to establish funds that keep alive the memory of ministers, lay leaders and churches that have made significant contributions to Methodism in South Carolina.
“Perhaps what is most remarkable is that Dr. Gramling’s work has been conducted almost exclusively as a volunteer and in addition to his full-time work as an ordained minister and foundation executive, not to mention his various assignments with the South Carolina Conference, including conference secretary, parliamentarian, counsel for the church, secretary and registrar of the Board of Ordained Ministry and secretary of the trial court,” Plyler wrote. “Throughout his long and illustrious career, history has remained his passion. For this, and for his God-given skills as a meticulous and detailed record-keeper, we and future generations can be truly thankful.”
Learn more about the award at https://umchistory.org.