Saturday, March 22, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 23

James Davis Expelled from New Hope Church March 25, 1845

Church membership is a much more casual affair today than it was in the first decades of Texas Methodism. Today a person who was baptized as an infant can walk to the altar during the closing hymn, answer a few questions, and be received into membership. That person’s name will then appear on the membership rolls come what may.

Methodist church membership once imposed far more rigorous requirements. Prospective members were subject to a probationary period in which they were expected to show outward fruits of their conversion experience. They were also expected to attend class meetings. Such class meetings were a distinctive feature of Methodism in the first half of the 19th century. Members would meet to examine the state each other’s souls and to help each other in the constant struggle against Satan’s temptations.

Once a probationary period was completed, the member was supposed to adhere to the rigid discipline of the church. Church trials which resulted in expulsion of lay members were common. Macum Phelan reported a trial against James Davis of New Hope in Van Zandt County. Here are excerpts from the minutes of the trial.

. . .the first charge is for having shot a yearling Bull a stray and skinning it and Leaveing the carcus in the woods.. . .the second is for having shot a Beef Belonging to Mortimer Dunehew three or four times Leaving it un Killed.

. . .Mr. Davis Pleads not Guilty to the first charge Mr. Smith a witness states that he was in the woods and meets Mr. Davis’s son with the hide and asked him if he had been Boochering and he Replide that it was a hide he had just taken of from a Little Bull they had found Dead he then ast him where it was and he told him it was Just over the turn of the hill he was he left the Boy and went to the carcus and found that it had been shot through the heart and the Blud was Running warm round the heart. . .

. . . We the Committee Do Unnanumously agree that James Davis is Guilty of the Charges aleged against him which Charges we Beleave to be Sufficient to Exclude a Person from the Kingdom of Grace and Glory

Davis appealed his expulsion to the quarterly conference which upheld the verdict.


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