Friday, October 12, 2007

This Week in Texas Methodist History October 14

McCaine Conference of Methodist Protestant Church Organized in Leon County. October 18, 1861

Most Methodists probably know the Methodist Protestant Church as one of the three denominations that merged in 1939 to become the Methodist Church. The other two denominations, the Methodist Episcopal Church and Methodist Episcopal Church South, were much larger and therefore loom larger in memory. In fact there was a Methodist Protestant presence in Texas by 1834 when William Smith was recorded as a participant in the Caney Creek camp meeting. Smith later attended Martin Ruter duing his final illness.

The Methodist Protestant Church organization was one expression of Jacksonian Democracy in the United States. Reformers who wished to limit the authority of bishops found little hearing in the Methodist Episcopal Church so they formed a new denomination—Wesleyan in theology but democratic in governance. There were no bishops or presiding elders. Appointments were made at annual conference by the stationing committee which often consisted of the conference members acting as a committee of the whole.

The Methodist Protestant Church experienced success in the eastern United States, but the vast distances in Texas presented problems. In the MEC and MECS, bishops and presiding elders traveled thousands of miles per year and, in doing so, provided the glue that held the denomination together. Since those offices did not exist in the Methodist Protestant Church, organizational matters were in the hands of the preachers. The problem was that many of the preachers were part time and had difficulties traveling.

The vast distances and lack of bishops contributed to the Methodist Protestants in Texas forming annual conferences when membership did not really justify their existence. So it was that on Oct. 18, 1861 the McCaine Conference was organized at Flat Creek Camp Ground in Leon County, part of the Keechie Circuit. There were twelve preachers, but only six of them attended. The Keechi Circuit was basically Leon, Freestone, Limestone, and Navarro Counties. The other circuits were the Navasota Circuit and Trinity Circuit.

At least two churches in the Texas Annual Conference of the UMC, Carroll Springs UMC and Slocum UMC, were originally in the McCaine Conference of the MP Church.


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