Sunday, May 07, 2006

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 7

General Conference of 1840 Approves Petition to Create Texas Conference

On May 4, 1840 the Reverend Benjamin M. Drake of the Mississippi Conference moved that the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church approve the petition from his conference that the Texas Mission be organized into its own annual conference. The General Conference voted favorably on the motion and therefore made possible the organization of the Texas Conference the following December.

The relationship between the Mississippi Conference and its Texas Mission had not been all sweetness and light. The first three missionaries to Texas, Martin Ruter, Littleton Fowler, and Robert Alexander had all arrived in 1837 under the auspices of the Mission Board which was headquartered in New York City. Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church decided in the summer of 1838 to transfer responsibility to the Mississippi Conference.

There were unfortunate results. Most striking was the assignment of Lewellen Campbell to New Orleans. Campbell had volunteered for Texas--not Louisiana-and had actually been working in East Texas from the summer of 1838 until December 1838. When he went to the Mississippi Annual Conference, he was informed that his ministries were more needed in New Orleans than in Texas.

Such action had a negative effect on other ministers contemplating a transfer to Texas. Volunteers for Texas had no assurance that they would actually be appointed to Texas charges. Martin Ruter's brother, Calvin, was one of the prospective volunteers who decided that if he had to join the Mississippi Conference to work in Texas, he would just stay in his own conference (Indiana).

The problem was solved by the creation of the Texas Conference. Benjamin Drake was one of the shining lights of the Mississippi Conference. He had been born in North Carolina and had joined the Tennessee Conference in 1820. He transferred to the Mississippi Conference in 1821 and soon found himself in New Orleans where he was intrumental in establishing the first Methodist church there. His sponsorship of the petition for the creation of the Texas Conference was a signal that Mississippi Methodists recognized that it was time for Texas to stand on its own.

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