Saturday, May 19, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 20

SU Professor John C. Granbery Prepares for European Tour< May 1923

As Southwestern University seniors were preparing for graduation in 1923, one of their professors, John C. Granbery, was preparing for a grand European tour to investigate the possibilities of instituting prohibition in Europe as had recently been accomplished in the United States.  

Granbery, a professor of economics and sociology, was no stranger to Europe.  He had taken a leave of absence in 1917 to run a YMCA home in Saloniki Greece to help war refugees.  His work there brought him much praise from the Greek government, including being named to the rank of Colonel in the Greek Army.  Now he was being called back by the World League Against Alcoholism.

His itinerary included Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, Tripoli, Greece, Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, and Latvia.  He returned to Georgetown in time for the Fall Semester.

William B. Jones, author of the definitive history of Southwestern University, calls Granbery “probably the most controversial long term teacher ever employed by Southwestern.”   He was born in Virginia in 1874 to John C. Granbery, Senior, who later was elected Bishop of the MECS.  John Granbery, Jr., received his education at Randolph Macon and Vanderbilt where his father was professor of philosophy and theology.  He served as a minister in Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky, and found time to pursue a doctorate at the University of Chicago which was awarded in 1909.  While at Chicago, he threw himself into the progressive causes of the era, getting to know Jane Addams who was creating settlement houses to tackle problems of the poor.  His embrace of the Social Gospel did little to endear him to the rural churches in Appalachia especially when he tried to bring the settlement house reforms he had learned in Chicago to his rural parishes.  His efforts to improve the lives of coal miners enraged the coal mine owners.  

He came to SU in a temporary capacity, but was offered the head of the department after only one year.   Granbery was brilliant and a provocative speaker.  Naturally he received many speaking invitations.  He spoke on many topics, but became known for his advocacy of women’s rights and his anti-lynching activism.  
Criticism began appearing in the Texas Christian Advocate.  This criticism had the effect of making him well known throughout Texas Methodism.  He did not relent.  He attacked the Megaphone (SU student newspaper) because it ran a tobacco advertisement.  He was delegate to the 1916 State Democratic Party convention and made speeches from the floor against Senator Joe W. Bailey and “Pa” James Ferguson---the leader of the “wets”.  Back at SU, he tried to stem the rise of the fraternities.  

Eventually he resigned so he could accept a position at Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University).  Controversy followed him to Lubbock.   J. Frank Norris, found some of his writings sympathetic to evolutional theory, and in 1932 he and several other “liberal and socialist” faculty members were fired.  

Granbery spent two year in Brazil at the college named for his father, and returned to SU in 1934 at the invitation of President Vivion.   After the death of Dean Laura Kuykendall, Mrs. Granbery was named Dean of Women. 

Granbery had enjoyed the confidence of 4 Southwestern presidents and his faculty colleagues.  He served with distinction in the YMCA in World War I.  He was in great demand as a public speaker.  In spite of, or perhaps because of his accomplishments, SU trustees terminated his employment in 1938.  He and Mrs. Granbery stayed in Georgetown and began a monthly newspaper, the Emancipator.  In 1941 the couple moved to San Antonio where they continued to publish the Emancipator until Granbery’s death in 1953.  

He was an internationalist, a proponent of women’s rights, a foe of the Ku Klux Klan and anti-Semitism, and a proponent of racial integration.  No wonder that conservative groups such as the Houston Chapter of the Minute Women of the USA denounced him as subversive.

Friday, May 11, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History  May 14

C.     C. Gillespie Reports on General Conference, May 1866

The 1866 session of the General Conference of the MECS met in New Orleans for 26 days.   Previous posts have dealt with the election of bishops, including Enoch Marvin, the first pastor who served a Texas church to be elected to that office.  Five bishops were elected in part because the General Conference of 1862 had been cancelled because of the Civil War.  Two bishops, Andrew and Soule, were already on the retired list, and Bishop Early reluctantly added his name to that list at General Conference.  Early was 80 years old but declared he was much more fit than most men that age.  There was no mandatory retirement age for bishops, but Early’s friends pressured him to retire, and he did so.

In other matters, the 1866 produced a revolution in church administration, changing more disciplinary provisions than any MECS General Conference to that date.   

Houstonians received up to the minute reports on the events through the Tri-Weekly Telegram, edited by the Rev. Clayton C. Gillespie (1822-1876).  Gillespie was a member of the Texas Conference, served as presiding elder, but then received a commission as one of the “Three Methodist Colonels” and led the 25th Texas Cavalry in its inglorious surrender at Arkansas Post. (The other two Colonels were George Washington Carter and Franklin C. Wilkes.)
After the end of the war, Gillespie did not return to the itinerant ranks, but because a journalist, editing not just the Tri-Weekly Telegram in Houston, but later the Texas Christian Advocate.
As the General Conference met, he published reports from a correspondent who signed the reports” Itinerate.”   I cannot identify “Itinerate,” but the most likely candidate was I. G. John, who later became TCA editor.

Here are some of the changes wrought by the 1866 General Conference.
·        The book editor, who published the Discipline, was instructed to replace “society” with “church” throughout.   Previously the local unit of Methodists was called a “society,” not a church.
·        The class meeting was made optional.
·        The six month probationary period for membership was abolished.
·        Lay delegates were authorized for annual and general conferences.
·        The ritual for matrimony was amended to allow for exchange of rings.
·        Bishops were authorized to call special sessions of General Conference and to change the location of as previously-announced General Conference.
·        The extension of a pastor’s maximum appointment at any one church from two to four years
·        The authorization of local churches to set pastor’s salaries. (Previously all pastors received the same salary.)
·        The introduction of the liturgy into worship.
·        A name change from Methodist Episcopal Church South to Episcopal Methodist Church (this proposal was rejected by the annual conferences.)
·        Delegates instructed the Book Editor to insert a ritual for the dedication of church buildings
·        A charge to parents was included in the ritual of infant baptism.
·        A delegation was named to confer with Methodist Protestants about possible merger

Another radical proposal was rejected.  That was to give the bishops power to veto a General Conference action they deemed unconstitutional. 

The “revolution” at the MECS set the tone for the denomination until the next big revolution, that of the 1939 creation of the Methodist Church from the merger of the MEC, MP, and MECS churches. 

Saturday, May 05, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History  May 6

General Conference Convenes in Dallas, May 7, 1930

General Conference delegates of the MECS came to Dallas in May 1930 to conduct the business of the denomination.  The most dramatic event during the event was the tearful apology of Bishop James Cannon, Jr.  (see post for May 3, 2008 for the details).   The public apology was the price the bishop had to pay to avoid a church trial.

This was the era in which bishops were elected by the General Conference as the jurisdictional system we now have was not yet in place.   Three men were elected bishop.  Two of them Arthur J. Moore and A. Frank Smith were relatively young and would come to exercise considerable influence in the MECS and its successor, the Methodist Church.   Both men achieved their influence mainly through force of personality and their powers of persuasion.  The creation of the Methodist Church in 1939 enhanced their power.  The MP Church had no bishops and therefore had no tradition of episcopal leadership.  Although I would not stress it too much, the MEC practiced a more collegial episcopal style and the MECS a more authoritarian one.  Although the MEC brought more members into the Methodist Church, the MECS brought forceful personalities and a heritage of strong episcopal leadership.   Both Smith and Moore assumed leadership roles in the new denomination.
They were also good friends, having both lived in San Antonio.  Moore had served Travis Park and Smith, Laurel Heights.  

What about the third bishop elected?  That would be Paul Bentley Kern (1882-1953).  Kern was born in Alexandria, Va, the son of a pastor.  He earned three degrees from Vanderbilt and also worked as an administrator at the Nashville school.  From 1907 to 1915 he served appointments in the Tennessee Conference.  When SMU opened in 1915, he joined the faculty as professor of English, Bible, and homiletics.  In 1920, he became Dean of the School of Theology.   He remained in that position until 1926 when he became pastor of Travis Park, San Antonio, replacing Arthur Moore who had been appointed to Birmingham. 

In addition to his pastoral, academic, and episcopal duties, Kern found time to publish a number of books, including The Church and its Work (with Worth M. Tippy, 1919), The Miracle of the Galilean (1930 SMU Fondren Lecture), The Miracle in Eternity (1935), The Basic Beliefs of Jesus (1935), The Bible in a Time of Confusion (1936), Methodism Has a Message ! (1941), Why I Am a Protestant (1946), and What Methodists Believe:

Kern was a pacifist who opposed both World War I and World War II.  He died in Nashville, in 1953.  He had retired there the previous year.  Both Moore and Smith served two more quadrennia.  . 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History April 29

Hiram Boaz Named Secretary of Church Extension, May 1918

Hiram Abiff Boaz was a commanding figure in Texas Methodism for decades.  He was president of Polytechnic College, vice president and president of SMU, and also led the transition of Polytechnic to its becoming Texas Woman’s College.  He was elected bishop of the MECS and presided over annual conferences in Texas and elsewhere until his retirement in 1938.  

Boaz was tall and had a commanding presence.  He also had a forceful personality and was no stranger to controversy.  In 1909, for example, he led voting in the election of delegates from the North West Texas Conference  to the 1910 General Conference, even though he was the youngest of the 18 delegates.  Four years later, as member of the newly created Central Texas Conference which had been split from the North West Texas Conference, he was voted 3rd alternate—quite a comedown.
Much of the controversy between 1909 and 1913 had to do with his activities in trying to move Southwestern University from Georgetown to Fort Worth.   He recognized that North Texas should have a major Methodist university, and he wanted it to be in Fort Worth.  The SU president, Robert S. Hyer, thought Dallas a better site.  In 1910 an Educational Commission received bids from both Dallas and Fort Worth and chose Dallas only after the Dallas group was allowed to increase their offer after hearing Fort Worth’s incentives.  Boaz thought the process had been conducted unfairly, but agreed to serve as vice president of the school being built in Dallas.    

While Hyer supervised the creation of the university, Boaz raised the money to make it possible.   In 1913, having raised $500,000, Boaz returned to Polytechnic in Fort Worth where his successor, Frank P. Culver, had resigned.    The next year Polytechnic became Texas Woman’s College.   (It later resumed its coeducational mission and is named Texas Wesleyan University.)

At the General Conference of 1918 Boaz was elected Secretary of the Board of Church Extension.  The task of the Board was to help churches pay down debt and to provide incentive grants for the construction of new church buildings.     
The new position required relocation to Louisville, Kentucky, where the Board of Church Extension had its offices.   The new position required constant travel throughout the South and also to New York City to solicit funds.  
The travel schedule was arduous, but it was also the path to the episcopacy.  Candidates for bishop in this era had to become known throughout the denomination.   There were plenty of “favorite son” candidates, but to win, one had to secure votes from more than one’s own conference.    There were three ways to achieve that denominational recognition.  One was by the presidency of one of the Methodist colleges.  A second was by transferring among the various annual conferences every four years.  The third path was working for one of the denominational offices or the Publishing House.    Each of those paths broadened the network of contacts and increased election chances.

Boaz was elected to the Board in May 1918 and moved to Louisville.  He stayed only until February, 1920 when he was informed that the SMU trustees had accepted President Hyer’s resignation and elected Boaz the 2nd President of SMU. 
SMU had opened its doors in the fall of 1915.  Hyer, a brilliant academic physicist, had made decisions on everything from architecture, to faculty, to choosing the name of the mascot (Mustangs), but now SMU needed more of a fundraiser instead of an academic  so Boaz returned. 

He did not stay long in that position either.  The General Conference of 1922 elected him bishop.   

Saturday, April 21, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History April 22

Methodists Organize Sunday School Convention for May 1, 1860, in Houston

Methodists in Houston spent the last week of April, 1860, organizing a grand Sunday School Convention to be held on May 1.   They invited Methodists from Richmond, Chappell Hill, and Galveston.  They invited Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Lutherans from the Houston churches.  The planners secured an open air site on the east side of Buffalo Bayou at the foot of Main Street.  To allay fears about crossing that stream, they arranged to have a pontoon foot bridge available.   

The effort was led by prominent Houstonians.  T. W. House was the leading cotton and wholesale merchant and an early railroad investor.  He was also the business partner and son-in-law of Charles Shearn for whom the Methodist church was named.  In only two years House would be elected Mayor of Houston.  Naturally he was on the finance committee for the Sunday School convention.   His son, E. M. House, became Woodrow Wilson’s closest advisor.  Charles Longcope (`803-1880) House’s partner in a stream ship company with service between Houston and Philadelphia, as well as numerous other businesses, also served on the committee.  Longcope had been a Trustee of Rutersville College and married Virginia McAshan and after her death, married her sister Courtney McAshan.   McAshan Methodist Church was eventually located about ½ mile from the site of the May 1st event.   The third member of the organizing committee was James  F. Dumble, another prominent industrialist of the era who has given his name to a Houston street.

Although Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Lutheran Sunday Schools were invited, the three speakers had all served Shearn MECS at one point in their careers.  The first was J. W. Phillips who had served 1849-50 and then gone on to Bryan, Columbus, Seguin, and presiding elder appointments.  While he was at Shearn, members complained about his formalism.  In any case he eventually became an Episcopal priest.

William N. Seat was the Presiding Elder of the Galveston District which included Houston.  In 1861 he was appointed to Shearn.  The third speaker was J. E. Carnes, editor of the Texas Christian Advocate.  When Civil War conditions required the relocation of the Advocate offices from Galveston to Houston, Carnes was appointed to Shearn.  

The Shearn pastor in May 1860 was William McKendree Lambdin, who served only one year and transferred from the Texas Conference.   

May 1 was a Tuesday, and it leads to the question. “Why was such a event held on a Tuesday?”

I can only speculate since the organizers left no documents relating to their motives in choosing the date, but it is possible that they were providing a religious alternative to May 1 celebrations which were sometimes marked by pagan revelry.   Although the German Maifest is the most widely known expression today, other Northern European cultures had some sort of spring festival that preceded the introduction of Christianity.    Sometimes there was tension between the pre-Christian and Christian values.  Hawthorne used that tension in the famous Maypole of Merrymount.   As more German immigrated to Texas, they brought Maifest with them.  Maifest celebrations included beer drinking, as they still do.  My hometown of Brenham will soon celebrate Maifest as it has done since 1881.  

I cannot be sure that organizers picked Tuesday May 1, 1860 for the Sunday School convention, but it is possible they were providing an alternative to what they considered to be paganism.   

Saturday, April 14, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History  April 15

180 Years Ago This Week

The week of April 15-21, 1838 was marked with intense activity of the Texas Mission.  It was one of the few times that the three missionaries saw each other during the life of the Texas Mission which I define as the period between September 1837 when Robert Alexander first set foot on Texas soil to December 1838 when the Mission was attached to the Mississippi Conference.  

On Sunday April 15, 1838 Littleton Fowler preached twice in Houston.  William Y. Allen, a Presbyterian missionary, also preached.   Having Sunday morning, afternoon, and evening preaching services were common in the era, and citizens of Houston were happy to have the services.  Congress was in session so the young capital city was crowded with visitors including legislators.  

Martin Ruter, the head of the Mission was in Washington.  On Saturday the 14th he had sought medical treatment.  There were two Methodist local preachers in Washington who also practiced medicine, Abner Manly and William P. Smith.  We know now that he had only a month to live.   On Sunday Ruter preached and then rode to Kessee’s (near the present town of Chappell Hill) where he spent the night. 
On Monday the 16th Ruter rode to Centre Hill in northern Austin County.  Fowler remained in Houston where he visited his Masonic Brothers.   Since the Congress of the Republic of Texas was in session in Houston, it was a good time for the Grand Lodge to meet.  Fowler gave the opening prayer and then was named Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of Texas.  

On Tuesday the 17th Ruter and Alexander were in Centre Hill where Ruter wrote two letters, one private and one intended for general circulation.   The general letter detailed the plan of appointments he had devised for the three missionaries and the local preachers who also preached but did not ride regular circuits.   The private letter revealed his illness and told of his plans to return to New Albany, Indiana, to bring Mrs. Ruter and the younger children to Texas.  The family had been staying in New Albany while Ruter came to Texas because Martin Ruter’s brother, Calvin, was Presiding Elder of the New Albany District.

That afternoon Ruter rode to John Rabb’s.  

On Wednesday the 18th Littleton Fowler went down Buffalo Bayou to Harrisburg to preach the funeral service of a man named Nathaniel James Dobie (1811-1838).  (N. J. Dobie was J. Frank Dobie’s great-uncle.)

On Thursday the 19th Ruter rode back to Hall’s where he wrote a report that could rightly be considered the first Texas census of Methodists.  He reported 20 societies with 325 members and 12 local preachers.  Church buildings were mainly still under construction and were located in Washington, Caney, San Augustine, Nacogdoches, and Cedar Creek.   After writing his report, in the company of William Chappell, he departed for the Red River area.  He planned to visit Methodists mainly around Clarksville and then proceed to New Albany.  

Saturday the 21st was the second anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto.  Both Alexander and Fowler were in Houston for the event.  Ruter, though, became so ill that he advised Chappell to go on without him.  The next day, Ruter decided to return to Washington to seek medical attention from Manly and Smith.  

April 15 to 21 1838 was quite a week.  Martin Ruter, a man so sick he would be dead in a month, did not spend two consecutive nights at any one house from Sunday through Friday.  He managed to write at least three letters and rode about 12-15 miles each day.   Robert Alexander spent the week in Austin County and Houston.  Fowler stayed in Houston/Harrisburg all week.  

The young mission was about to experience tragedy because of Ruter’s death.  April 15-21 was probably the last week of “normal” operations.     

Saturday, April 07, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History   April 8

     J. W. Fields Solicits Funds for Church Building in Rusk, April 8 and 9, 1850

Fields spent the month of April, 1850 riding his circuit, and what a circuit it was!   He began the month in Anderson County on the Palestine Circuit.  The next Sunday he was in Rusk for the quarterly meeting of the Cherokee Circuit.  He held a love feast at 11:00 on Sunday but found the congregation to be “a fearful, faint and fearful church, everything unfavorable to religion.”  Fields proposed the erection of a meeting house and contributed $5 toward that goal in the hopes that his display of generosity would stimulate others to give.   Fields added in his memoir that the $5 had been pressed into his hand at annual conference by a member who had recently returned from the California gold fields.   The contribution kick started the pledge drive and construction began almost immediately. 

The next stop was the Tyler Circuit meeting at Kennedy’s School House on the 13th and 14th.   The next week found Fields at Kingsborough (name changed to Kaufman in 1851).   On Monday Fields started for Dallas but found the creeks so high that he was forced to turn back.  When he returned to Kingsborough, he found the congregation still there since they were also unable to return to their homes because of the flooded streams. Fields naturally called the congregation together and held a preaching service.  On Tuesday he found the minor creeks had gone down, but the larger ones even higher than before.  Since minor creeks had to be forded and larger ones had ferries, it was possible to travel.   He got the East Fork of the Trinity which he described as “the worst and most dangerous stream in North Texas.”   The ferryman was reluctant to carry Fields across, but finally agreed.  The ferry ride was across the main channel, several sloughs, and finally the ferryman had to get on his horse to guide Fields through the bottoms.   By the 27th Fields was at Webb’s Chapel in Dallas County---what a month of circuit riding!