Saturday, August 04, 2007

This Week in Texas Methodist History August 5, 2007

Sumertime Reading Report

Last week I reported on some of my summertime reading. (See post for July 28)

The biographies of Thomas O. Summers and George Pierce have been most instructive. Both men rose to great prominence in the MECS, Pierce as bishop and Summers as editor, Vanderbilt professor, and General Conference secretary. As I read about their entrance into the minstry, my thoughts kept turning to the hoops ordination candidates must jump through today and wondered how Summers and Pierce would have fared. Both men had questions raised about their adherence to the plain dress provisions required of Methodist preachers.

Summers attempted to join the Baltimore Conference. His vision was so weak that he had to wear glasses---gold rim glasses! The use of gold rim rather than base metal rim glasses was cause for challenge during his examination. There was even a faction that believed that the use of any glasses at all indicated a snobbery. The wearer was trying to impress people by making them think he had read so many books that he had ruined his eye sight.

Pierce's problems came from a blue "claw hammer coat with brass buttons." George Pierce's father, the famous Lovick Pierce, had sent his son to college. Rev. Pierce bought his son a suit like all the other students for graduation. The young graduate spent a few months reading law in his uncle's office, but received the call to preach. Naturally the only suit he owned was the one his father had bought for his graduation. Pierce's biographer records the following exchange:

George, these people want you to be recommended for a license, but if you get the recommendation, you must take that coat off. No man can be licensed to preach in a coat like that.

Well, but, Uncle Collinsworth, I have no other Sunday coat but this, and it would not be right to throw it away and ask pa to get me another one.

I tell you, my son, that coat must come off.

Well, if they are going to license my coat and not me, I will change it; but I do't expect to change it until I am obliged to get another.

George got him recommendation over the objections of Uncle Collingsworth who then turned to his next objection.

George, why do you wear your hair as you do? All the rest of the preachers wear their's like Bishop Asbury did, brushed down, and you brush yours up.

But Uncle Collingsworth, I have a cowlick.

References are in last week's column.


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