Saturday, April 14, 2007

This Week in Texas Methodist History April 15

General Conference Committee on Boundaries Recommends Creation of Northwest Texas Conference April 16, 1866

The 1866 General Conference of the MECS which met in New Orleans reshaped Texas Methodism in actions that have continuing impact. There was much catching up to do. The 1862 General Conference had been cancelled because of the Civil War. The bishops had become more infirm. One of the main business items would be the election of five younger men to the episcopacy. That class included Enoch M. Marvin, the first bishop to have served a Texas church as pastor. Another business item included authorizing lay delegates to General Conference. Yet another issue at the General Conference was a membership crisis. African American members were leaving the MECS by the thousands to join the MEC, AME, AMEZ, and Baptist churches.

Even with such a full agenda, the conference found time to reshape the boundaries of the annual conferences in Texas. The Texas Conference had been created in 1840. In 1844 it was split into eastern (East Texas) and western conferences (Texas) with the Trinity River as the boundary. In 1858 the territory of the Texas Conference was reduced by the creation of the Rio Grande Mission Conference. That boundary was approximately the Guadalupe River. Here's what happened at the General Conference of 1866:

1. The Rio Grande Mission Conference became the West Texas Conference, and its boundary was moved northeast away from the Guadalupe. That conference was later renamed the Southwest Texas Conference.

2, The northern portion of the Texas Conference was struck off to become the North-west Texas Conference. The boundary between the two would be the southern county line of Leon, Robertson, and Milam Counties.

3. The northern portion of the East Texas Conference was struck off to become the Trinity Conference. That conference later became the North Texas Conference.

And the aftermath. . .? Only eight years later the Texas Conference came back to General Conference and said, "We gave up too much territory." It petitioned General Conference for the return of Leon, Robertson, Milam, Freestone, Falls, and Limestone Counties. Its petition was successful in getting almost all it asked for. In 1910 the Northwest Texas Conference was itself split into northern and southern portions, thereby creating the Central Texas and Northwest Texas Conferences.


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