Saturday, December 09, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History   Dec. 10

Bishop Keener Organizes German Mission Conference in Houston, Dec. 16, 1874

On December 16, 1874 Bishop J. C. Keener organized the remaining MECS Germans in Texas and Louisiana into a new conference, the German Annual Mission Conference of Texas and Louisiana.   I say remaining because the MEC had seen a vast exodus of former MECS preachers and churches into the Southern German Conference of the MEC.  That conference had been organized in Industry in 1873.   
The new conference consisted of the former German speaking congregations in Texas and Louisiana of the MECS.  The charter members of the new conference, as listed by F.W. Radetzky,  were Charles Grote, J. A. Pauly, F. Vordenbaumen, J. Prinzing, J. C. Kopp, J. A. Schaper, August Engel, J. B. A. Ahrens, Jacob Bader, Al. Albrecht, J. A. G. Rabe, H. Evers or “Ebers”, J. Wohlsclaegel, W. A. Knolle, Jacob Kern, , and C. Thomas. 
That organizing session also authorized starting a school, Fredericksburg College.  In 1886 the Louisiana churches became part of the Louisiana (English-speaking) Conference.  In 1894 the college was sold for $8000, and trustees managed those funds for scholarships.  In 1929 the residue was turned over to Southwestern University as an endowment for a lectureship for ministers and teachers. 

The MECS General Conference of 1918, in response to World War I, changed the name to Southwest Texas Conference.  That name was temporary.  In October 1918 the Annual Conference voted to dissolve.  Three churches, Bering and Beneke in Houston and East Bernard joined the Texas Conference of the MECS.  The others joined the West Texas (today Rio Texas) Conference.  Those churches were kept in a newly created district—the Southwest District with E. A. Konken as Presiding Elder.  Three years later the district was enlarged by the inclusion of English speaking churches and renamed the Kerrville District. 

Saturday, December 02, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History  Dec. 3

Methodist Churches Cooperate with ABS for “Khaki Bibles” for the Troops, First week of December, 1917

The American Bible Society, an ecumenical group devoted to Bible translation, publishing, and distribution, designated the first week of December, 1917, for a massive fund drive that would enable the purchase of a Bible for every American soldier.  The Methodists of Texas responded eagerly to the call. 
The goal was $400,000 and both San Antonio and  Houston were assigned quotas of  $3000.  The ABS would provide the Bible for $.25, and they would be distributed free to the troops through the YMCA.   The drive was supposed to last from Dec. 1 to 11, with every preacher delivering a sermon on the topic on Dec. 9.    Methodist preachers in Houston at the time were I. B. Manley at McKee St., R. E. Ledbetter at West End, and J. W. Mills at St. Paul’s. 
If they had any doubts about were the church hierarchy stood on the war, those doubts were shattered when the MECS College of Bishops issued a formal statement on participation the war after their meeting in Jackson, TN.
The committee that signed the statement consisted of Bishops Atkins, Murrah, and McCoy.    The bishops admit “Our government did not enter the war through military necessity, but from higher compulsion---by a compelling sense of comradeship with all that is highest and best in human civilization.”   Students of just war doctrine will note the dismissal of that doctrine.
The main justification to the bishops was that the war was really against rationalism.  German theologians and philosophers had led the movement toward examination of Biblical texts as historical documents-(rationally).  The bishops conflated rationalism with materialism and atheism.  Germany must be defeated or the world would be taken over by atheism!  That was the message.  

 Six months later, at the General Conference of 1918, John Moore was elected bishop of the MECS.  He was one of the very few Methodists who had actually gone to Germany for theological study. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History Nov. 26

Fire Sweeps Through SMU Dormitory, November 27, 1917

Texas Methodists created many schools throughout the 19th and early 20th century.  Unfortunately most of those schools failed.  The main reason for closing the schools was debt, but fire and disease sometimes contributed to school failure.   For example, Odessa College, an institution of the Austin Conference of the MEC closed after one session because of a fire.   

SMU opened for instruction in 1915, and while it was still a young institution, President Hyer had to deal with a major dormitory fire.  On Nov. 27, 1917 a fire swept through South Hall.   Fortunately the fire began at noon rather than when the students were sleeping.  Students pitched in to fight the fire and along with the Dallas Fire Department were able to keep the blaze confined to South Hall.  The estimated damage was in excess of $20,000, and classes were not interrupted.
It was also fortunate that there was only one serious injury.  A post graduate student working as associate pastor at City Temple, King Vivion (1896-1969) was seriously injured by a collapsing wall. 
Readers of this column will recognize the name King Vivion who became President of Southwestern University as a thirty-two year old minister.  Vivion recovered from his injury soon enough to enter the ministry.  He was appointed to Bryan so he could start a church to serve the Texas A&M community.   After building that church, he was appointed to First Methodist Galveston (the predecessor of Moody Memorial UMC).  Vivion became SU president in 1928 and continued in that post until 1935 when he became pastor of McKendree Methodist Church in Nashville, TN.  Texas Methodists also remember his younger brother, James Monroe Vivion (1902-1978) for his ministry in the Texas Conference and with the Texas Methodist Foundation. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History November 19

Newspaper Editor Shames Methodists in Jefferson, Nov. 19, 1869

The following is presented without comment from the Home Advocate, Jefferson, Texas, Nov. 19, 1869.

While Dr. Finley was preaching at the Methodist Church last Sunday, the stillness of the congregation was so perfect that the spiriting and spattering of the tobacco juice sounded as if a hundred little boys were engaged in a squirt gun skirmish—What filthy creatures we Christian are?  When will Purity be able to command a decent regard in sacred places?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History Nov. 12

Industry UMC celebrates its history

Tomorrow, Nov. 12, 2017, Industry UMC will celebrate the 150th anniversary of its church building.  The church itself is even older, dating to before the Civil War, but the church building, built in 1867, still stands and still is used even though the congregation usually worships in a larger, more modern building. 
The 1867 date is significant.  The Industry MECS church, led by its pastor, Carl Biel, left the MECS in December 1866 and joined the MEC.  It was the first of several German Texas Methodist churches to do so.  The members who wished to remain in the MECS retained title to the building so a new church was necessary.  That is why Industry UMC is celebrating the 150 anniversary of its building tomorrow. 
I was asked to participate in the celebration.  Here are part of the remarks I intend to give. 

The 1870 Conference Journal shows what I think is a remarkable testimony to the zeal with which the Industry Methodists had for their church.   The number of German churches has increased.  Now there are churches in Victoria, Llano, Bastrop, Millheim, Columbus, and Brenham.  Industry reported 62 members, 10 probationers, a church building valued at $1850 and a parsonage valued at $1000.   That parsonage is the ONLY parsonage listed for any church in the entire conference.  (remember that the rest of the conference consists of recently enslaved African Americans).   You are, no doubt, aware of our system of benevolences and apportionments since we still have them.  In 1870 the benevolences churches were expected to support were Missionaries, Mission Sunday Schools, church extension (that’s helping fund new church construction), Tract Society (publishing and distributing religious literature), the American Bible Society, and the American Sunday School Union.  The church at Industry gave $62.50 for missions—$1 per member plus 50 cents.  That $62.50 was the largest contribution of any church in the conference.  There are churches today that don’t pay $1/member for some of the benevolences.  Its $10.50 was the only contribution to Mission Sunday Schools of any church in the Conference. Its $23.25 was the largest amount paid to the Board of Church Extension of any church in the conference.  It also contributed to the Tract Society and the Sunday School Union---the only church in the entire conference that paid its apportionments. 

Saturday, November 04, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History   November 5

 James Burke Informs Readers that Methodist Sunday School is Just Fine with the American Sunday School Union, Nov. 6, 1847

James Burke (?-1880) was popularly known as “Sunday School Man.” He was born in Edgefield District, SC, spent his childhood in Tennessee, and in `1837 moved from Natchez to San Augustine, Texas.  He was a Cumberland Presbyterian, clerk of the 2nd Congress of the Republic of Texas, a member of the Santa Fe Expedition, a journalist and participant many worthy, humanitarian causes.
He was best known as the Texas Agent for the American Sunday School Union, and it was in that capacity that he responded to the founding of a Methodist Sunday School by Orceneth Fisher in Houston.
Instead of displaying jealousy for a competing Sunday School, Burke heaped praise on the Methodist effort.
In the Republic of Texas most churches were points on a circuit and most Sunday Schools were Union rather than denominational.  Very few Presbyterians or Methodists had preaching by one of their own denomination every Sunday.  Many churches shared the pulpit, and also the Sunday School, with a pastor of whatever denomination happened to be in town that Sunday.   The American Sunday School Union had been formed in Philadelphia in 1824 to supply Sunday School literature devoid of denominational slant that could be used in the Union Sunday Schools.

The Methodist Episcopal Church and Methodist Episcopal Church, South, also published Sunday School literature, and the proceeds from the sale of that literature was devoted to supporting the itinerate ministers who also often acted as sales people for the literature. 
Whenever a city became large enough to move from circuit to station status, it usually withdrew from the Union Sunday School and created Methodist Sunday School.  The Methodists in Houston finally gained enough members in October, 1847 to form their own Sunday School under Rev. Orceneth Fisher.  They withdrew from the Union Sunday School they had been attending.
Burke, instead of resenting the defection of the Methodists from the Union Sunday School in Houston, rejoiced that the event was occurring.  He said, in effect, that there was plenty of work for all Christians in teaching the Gospel.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History  October 29

James Dickson Shaw Surrenders Credential Under Charges of Heresy,  Nov. 2, 1882

The Northwest Texas Annual Conference met in its annual session in Cleburne during the first week of November, 1882.  In addition to the regular business of the conference, delegates also had to deal with heresy charges against one of its most prominent ministers, the Rev. James Dickson Shaw of 5th Street Methodist Church in Waco.  

Shaw was born in Walker County in 1841.  He served in the Confederate Army and in 1870 joined the Northwest Texas Conference of the MECS.  He served Mexia and Lancaster Bell, and in 1878 was sent to 5th Street.
In 1881 his wife, Lucy Frances Shaw died after the birth of their 6th child.  The infant died soon afterward.   A visiting phrenologist, Dr. O. S. Fowler called him an agnostic and soon others in Waco were questioning his orthodoxy.
Formal charges were preferred at the 1882 Annual Conference.  His Presiding Elder admitted that there was nothing of blame in his personal life—The charges were about nothing but doctrine.  Bishop Parker appointed a three person committee of investigation and Shaw went before them and admitted that he had changed his views concerning the inspiration of the Scriptures, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the punishment of the wicked, and the vicarious atonement.  He made a 45 minute statement in defense of his views.
The committee reported on Nov. 3 that it recommended expulsion.  Shaw asked instead if he could surrender his credential.  Not only was he allowed that privilege but he was granted permission to address the conference. 
Shaw was one of the most prominent members of the conference.,  In his address he asked about his status with respect to the offices he held beyond the local church.  He was an associate editor of the Advocate, a curator of Southwestern University, Secretary of the Board of Missions, member of the General Board of Missions, and on the Publication Board of the Advocate.  His surrender of credential meant that he resigned from all those positions.  
Shaw returned to Waco and in Dec. 1882, just one month after surrendering his Methodist credentials, help found the Religious and Benevolent Association.  He soon became the editor of The Independent Pulpit, a forum for free thinkers to discuss not only religious, but also cultural and civic issues.  The monthly magazine attracted subscribers from Texas and beyond.  Shaw remained active in civic affairs.  He served as an Alderman in Waco and helped found the Humane Society.    In his later years he moved from Waco to Glendale, CA, to be with one of his daughters.  He died there in 1926, but his remains were returned to Waco for burial.